Can!!Can's JDub Debut Packs a Punch
I don't want to take anything away from the religious and other messages in Can!!Can's songs, but their brand-new album, Monsters & Healers, doesn't warrant a cerebral review. These are songs that become sheer anthems to shout along to over time, even if you don't know what all the words actually are or why "El Paso" deserves to be screamed many times over. This is a hard-rocking album for which you're supposed to crank the volume up to 11 and thrash around your body in ways you didn't know it could move. This is a band whose music is best appreciated by going to a live show and pumping your fists in the air, screaming along, and dancing like a man possessed a foot away from their frontman as he leaps on and off the stage. I know from experience.
Because the Georgia-based trio's larger-than-life live sound is so integral to what Can!!Can is all about, it's a big deal that the sound quality on the group's first JDub Records release packs such a punch. Mary Collins' guitar is fierce yet intricate, Josh Lamar's drums are pounding yet not cacophonous, and Patrick Aleph's vocals are commanding. The sound is crisp and engaging, far better than on their previous release, All Hell. The improvement is most noticeable in "Recoaxed" (formerly "Coaxed") and "Victim" (formerly "Victim Fashion"), which appeared on All Hell but were rerecorded for Monsters & Healers.
Is that sound Jewish, punk, or Jewish punk? I've heard Patrick, the only band member who is a member of the tribe, give different explanations depending on the context. When I interviewed him last summer, he said, "It's hard to label it. ... But definitely, punk rock has influenced me a lot. I think you can see it mostly in the show. In the music, I think I would call it more experimental rock, heavy rock maybe."
While the band might avoid the Jewish "label," the album was released by a Jewish record label. For his day job, Patrick runs a nonprofit called PunkTorah. The Jewish connection is there and pervades Patrick's life and music, even if it doesn't define Can!!Can's music. Still, as Patrick repeatedly yells "Hashem reigns over us" over a raucous bridge in "Devil in the Night Sky," my Jew-punk heart is aflutter. You don't have to pigeonhole Can!!Can or their music, but no matter how you slice it, they're landtsmen.