Punk certainly seems to be having a grand old time of it of late. From Protomartyr’s dour glory, through Downtown Boy’s politically fuelled ruckus, to Priests socially conscious funk-punk, the genre is having quite the renaissance. Portland’s Lithics are another band that feed into that regeneration in their own unique way. Mating Surfaces certainly carries on in the vein of their taut 2016 debut Borrowed Floors, but somehow they manage to tighten up their playing and songwriting another notch for a gloriously pithy follow-up.
The quintet waste no time in making their intentions clear with the deliriously executed opener Excuse Generator. The bass lines are so tightly wound you could bounce off them and the flicking and spiking guitars feel like a tease, hinting that the record will harass every nerve in your body. Lithics take an economic approach, with most of the tracks barely breaching the two-minute mark, save for the album’s chief agitator Boyce. Its tenacious wind-up never breaks, but rather builds to an almost unbearable pitch of pointed and scaling guitar lines that provoke every sense.
There’s nothing that’s overpolished or overworked about Lithics, but they often sound like the more studious cousins of New York’s Palberta, and for Mating Surfaces their deliberate poise serves them well. The pace is indefatigable and yet despite the precarious tightrope the record walks they nary put a foot wrong.
The lack of blemishes and their tireless velocity could feel a little clinical and cold, but there are textures that lend the record its humanity and variation. The pristine new wave punk of When Will I Die is matched by Flat Rock, which proves they can be as brutal as they are lithe and flexible. Lyrically, the fractured and repetitive nature of the words pairs seamlessly with the dynamic and impressionistic nature of the music. All in all, Lithics have made what is surely one of the most sincerely bracing albums of the year.