Though most ‘00’s punk is a dime a dozen (like the 90’s groups who were already a generation late to an emptied party), every now and then you hear one that has more to offer. It’s not just that this Cincinnati trio can play, having formerly been in the instrumental group Ampline. It’s that, oddly for former instrumentalists, they can really sing. The bio comparisons to Pegboy and Jawbox are correct, even if Covington is much more hardcore on their debut LP. But with so many harmonies plus strong lead vocals that sound like Mission of Burma’s Roger Miller, they really have a lot of Moving Targets in them too. (They should cover “Always Calling.”) That and Chris Charlton’s post-Tom Lyle (Government Issue) blizzard guitars go so far beyond the three chords and an attitude lobby. And the sound/production is hot, too.
BIG TAKEOVER #57
Long one of my favorite indie labels, Kentucky’s Tiberius Records have made it their trademark to sign and promote great indie rock bands. Covington is no exception to that rule. Without compromising on delivery, Covington writes rangy, edgy punk rock in the lines of Hot Water Music and Jawbox. Guitars bounce throughout the mix with pogo goodness and the drums are frantic yet restrained enough to hold a steady diet of rhythm. Punctuated by the fact that their past includes Ampline, an all-instrumental and no vocals band from Cincinnati, Covington realizes that it’s not all about the singer but are blessed with the best of both worlds tremendous songwriting and performance with lyrical wit and intelligent vocal arrangements that include all of the members.
Devised Without a Plan, a joint release from area labels Tiberius Records and Phratry Records, immediately brings to mind adjectives like “explosive,” “relentless” and “searing.” But, while fitting, those descriptors belie the depth, rhythmic nuances and glass-shard textures present in Covington’s soaring, brawny sound. The trio has the gas pedal glued to the floorboard, but there’s a clear direction and they’d just assume blow through a cornfield or jump a couple of bridges to get to their destination in lieu of sticking to the boring ol’ interstate. Covington features three of the four founding members of Ampline, an excellent, mostly-instrumental group, so you know the musical ducks are in a row as they somewhat echo that band’s captivating grasp on winding structural surprises. But vocally, Covington adds even more weight to their impact, enhancing strong lead melodies with tantalizing harmonies. Falling somewhere between Quicksand, Naked Raygun and a more streamlined Fugazi, Covington have a lot of the qualities that are on display in the music of bands drawing mainstream attention right now—octave-guitar trills, heavy, propulsive rhythms, precise harmonies, heart-spilling vocals. But it’s Covington’s sense of dynamics and what they do with the pieces that makes their puzzle more satisfying and artful. Emo? Oh no.
I like surprises. Nice ones obviously; I’m not so keen when people spring a nasty surprise. When Covington’s latest eight-tracker arrived on the doormat it didn’t fill me full of excitement - I’ve never heard of the band before and I like to think I’m pretty clued up when it comes to who is sneaking up on the radar and releasing quality records. But this is where the surprise bit comes in, because ‘Devised Without A Plan’ is a quality blast of Hot Water Music-meets Good Riddance style punk rock. The opening blast of ‘The Longest Day’ sealed the deal for me, with guitars exploding from the speakers and drums rattling off like machine gun fire. There’s a Face To Face vibe about ‘Days Spent Counting Hours’, with its thick melodic edge shining through the passionate and intense vocals. In recent years this type of music seems to have taken a back seat in favour of bands going down the ultra pop-punk route or down the dyed-black-hair- and-screaming route. Covington will make no apologies that they sound like they’ve come straight out of 1998 and they have absolutely no need to - this is a quality little record and a nice little surprise.