Essential New Music: Attempt Survivors’ “Negative Nite”

“Extinction is the rule,” Carl Sagan once wrote. “Survival is the exception.”

Most of the time, that seems like a fair enough deal on a cosmic-handshake level—perhaps even a bit too kind when you consider the patchwork of banality, cruelty and tragedy that so frequently endures in this tiny, lonely corner of the universe. Yet there are times when something comes along that is enlivening and beautiful and soul-affirming enough to justify—exalt, even—survival.

Such is the case with Negative Nite, the debut full-length from Attempt Survivors, an indie supergroup comprised of members who have separately survived the slings and arrows of the underground scene in bands such as Helmet, Six Going On Seven, Saetia, Errortype:11, Big Collapse, Vs.Antelope and more.

Across 10 remarkable, diverse songs, the quartet—vocalist/bassist Joshua English, drummer Kyle Stevenson and guitarists Adam Marino and Matthew Kane—truck in the sort of transcendent synthetization and whoa-actually-there-is-something-new-under-the-sun post-post-hardcore that feels like an organic revolutionary act in an age of AI-enabled IP theft and worship at the golden calf of homogeneity.

Which is to say you will find here the angularity—sorry, some of you are angsty about that term, but you also know exactly what it means—of Steady Diet Of Nothing Fugazi intermingling with driving shades of Quicksand and Archers Of Loaf; Superdrag vibes flowing those of mid-era Jawbox and latter-day Sunny Day Real Estate; and Slint sharing a couch in the sandbox with the Beach Boys. But all these influences and touchstones are like so much malleable glass in the sonic kiln of master craftsmen who know how to stoke flames As listeners, we’re invited to sit back and watch new hues and forms emerge and take shape.

It’s especially a treat to hear English’s voice in top form more than a quarter century after the release of Six Going On Seven’s “Method Actor,” which easily should’ve been one of the biggest quote-unquote emo songs of the ’90s. You can hear English reunite with his Six Going On Seven bandmates on his also-fantastic new solo release, Outlaw Adjacent. Meanwhile, Saetia is headed to London this month for a pair of sold-out reunion shows, and Helmet is incubating its ninth studio album, Left. This multi-headed renaissance makes the decision to reconfigure in Attempt Survivors that much more of a gift.

Survival may never be a rule on this plane of existence, but Negative Nite sure as hell does resuscitate the prospect of raging (and riffing) against the dying of the light for a anyone who ever thought, “Surely, there must be more than this.”

—Shawn Macomber