Essential New Music: Lithics’ “Tower Of Age”

A tower can be an advantageous observation post or a monument to the past. Lithics’ Tower Of Age is both. The Portland quartet has an undeniable hankering for musical methods that were first developed before anyone in the band was born. The crisp, choppy grooves of drummer Wiley Hickson and bassist Bob Desaulniers are directly descended from those of post-punk combos like Pylon and Delta 5. Guitarists Aubrey Hornor and Mason Crumley have studied the start/stop structures and terse, conversational leads of Captain Beefheart’s Magic Band and early-‘80s Fall so closely, they could probably show the surviving members of those ensembles how to do it right again. And Desaulniers’ low-tech tape collages complicate and interrupt the band’s rocking performances in a manner similar to Fall leader’s Mark E. Smith’s disruptive C-90 interventions. 

But the cultural landscape that Lithics surveys is present, or even prescient. Who can’t stroll down an American street nowadays without obsessing about somebody’s ink? “Snake Tattoo” succinctly captures the combination “Woah, what did I just see?” and “Why can’t I forget that tat?” And the lines “You take a walk with me/Hands to the side,” from first single “Hands,” nail a social-distancing vibe that may have been a choice when Hornor first gave deadpan voice to the words, but is now an essential survival strategy. Call ‘em classic or pertinent; either way, you’re right.

—Bill Meyer