Bleeding Kansas - Dead Under Decor - Abacus Recordings 2006
14 Songs
Running Time: 36:19

Go to any major city's arts district, and you'll see flyers for innumerable bands stapled, taped, and driven into telephone poles, streetlight posts, or any stationary surface. These flyers are usually advertising X show at Y venue by Z band, and run the gamut in design from preschool fingerpaintings to Frank Kozik-style posters. It's all about promotion, though, and this is one area where California's Bleeding Kansas have done the job and done it right. Racking up nearly 50,000 plays between MySpace and PureVolume is no easy task. Before anyone gets to your profile/site to give your music a chance, they have to know the damn thing's there in the first place. BK ads are on nearly every music site I visited recently (thank you, Abacus, for your advertising budget), and at one point, I came across a banner on the Home & Garden website, so no one can say the band isn't busting their ass to get their name out.

Deservedly so, as it happens. After running through several pressings of their 1859 EP, BK finally hunkered down, shrink-wrapped Kurt Ballou (Converge) into the producer's chair, and the result is the debut full-length, Dead Under Decor. First, let's clarify here that the ragged rock of Bleeding Kansas, while intense in its own way, ain't metal by any stretch of the definition. Those of you with full-back Venom tattoos can pick up your spiked armbands on the way out and over to the next review. The bass-heavy mix gives 'Retract The Attitude' a mean wallop, reminiscent as much at times of Unsane's more straightforward material, or if Helmet were still doing anything worthwhile. The music here is thankfully devoid of breakdowns, pushing BK even farther from the ultratypical thugcore crowd, but that (to me) is one of its small triumphs. I mean, we have more than enough bands floorpunching their way to the top of the dungheap, thanks. It's time to write songs again, and Bleeding Kansas ain't half bad at crafting memorable tunes, while adding a sense of dynamics. The band isn't above tossing in the occasional inside joke either. The segue from 'Feel The Sting Of The First Bite' to 'Can't Help You There' finds the guitars blantanty (and impressively) nailing a snippet of hardcore classic 'Carry On Wayward Son' by those pit veterans Kansas, and reprising 'Drowning In A Sea Of Shit' before actually playing the full song. The reprise is beautiful, languid, and tidal, while the main body of the song is as close as punk will ever get to a ballad and still come away with its testicles intact. Making a comparison to Converge is inevitable, if only for the fact that so very much of what's out there now is directly influenced by what they've done in the past. I'm not sure if 'Hypocrites, Be Alive Again' is a play on words or a misspelling, but at any rate, it grooves like new corduroy and stomps like an elephant, so big deal, you know?

While neither as frantic as Converge, nor as technically punishing as labelmates Ion Dissonance, Bleeding Kansas are crafting credible heavy music devoid of specific categorical labels. A victory for simple hard music.

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