Control freaks

Few bands sound so gloriously in control of sounding out of control as Chicago’s Puta-pons. On this whiplash crash of a frenetically paced debut, the trio plays a punk-rock ruckus that practically shakes itself apart from sheer velocity alone. Herky-jerky instruments skitter and skid in circles while two vocalists play a tense ’n’ taut game of tug-of-war around each other’s turned-up hiccups. It’s a cacophonous chaos that should probably end up in shambles on the dance floor, but the band manages to rein in its hot-wired energy just enough to keep Return to Zero from spinning completely out of control.

From the moment it opens with the frayed-nerve “Void,” the album is a mesmerizing mess as guitar, bass and drums jitter and jump like Devo and the Gang of Four kicking out art-punk party jams. Those Wire idolaters in Elastica are the trio’s closest modern-day comparisons, however, and for tracks including “Bad Bad Bad” and “Ranking Anonymous,” the Puta-pons were clearly tuned into the same early ’80s New Wave airwaves that Justine Frischmann must’ve been checking out when writing The Menace.

What makes Return to Zero more compelling and enjoyable than Elastica’s heavily praised second album, though, is guitarist Shelly Kurzynski Villasenor’s and bassist Rebecca Crawford’s vocals. Recalling the Au Pairs, Sleater-Kinney and most specifically, LiLiPUT/Kleenex, the band’s dual-vocal attack is all stuttered squeals and robo-monotones. The overlapping interaction is so let’s-go-schizo that it’s easy to imagine the singers’ heads spinning like tops from the surging momentum of their chirped and burped vocals. And if they can pull off that sort of precise interplay while knocking out such spot-on staccato rock on their first album, it’s a safe bet that the Puta-pons are nothing less than totally in control of their wildly infectious sound.

E-mail Jimmy Draper at [email protected].

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