Album Review/Artist Interview: Silver Car Crash – ‘Shattered Shine’

Posted: by The Editor

While other bands may have given into competing in TikTok trends, making extravagant music videos, or attempting to beat the Instagram algorithm over the past few years to get seen, Pittsburgh post punk veterans Silver Car Crash are just now joining social media after being a band for nearly 10 years. “We resisted it for so long, but we someone told us we should make Instagram, so we finally did,” bassist and vocalist Brandon Walker says. 

If you’re a patron of the Pittsburgh music scene, you’d know they never needed it. Their music was always dripping with real-ness that negated the bogus nature of social media, which was made abundantly clear on their first official full length Resource Body, released in 2018. The album’s rough around the edges approach to recording (liner notes read “recorded in singer/guitarist Connor Kapelewski’s “murder pit”) showcased true musical appreciation and emotionality, whether it be anger by way of shrill, noisy guitars on songs like “Curse In The Pines” and “Change,” or brooding goth intensity on stand out tracks “DADGAD (Factory) and “Blood on Vanessa.”

You could tell by the album and the band’s live shows that they’re 80’s post punk and noise fanatics, incorporating the sounds of Sonic Youth and My Bloody Valentine into their songs, but never in a tribute act sort of way. They brought their own touch to songwriting and performing that felt unique to them. Particularly, their use of 3 different vocalists; guitarist/singer Connor Kapelewski, bassist Brandon Walker, and singer/guitarist Justin Bennett all writing and taking lead on their own makes for a unique dynamic. Not to mention, Justin Bennett’s quirks as a songwriter and performer, that include his romanticization of Pittsburgh, his use of a thumb pick while wailing on a fender jazz master, or when he sets his guitar on the ground mid-song so he could pick up a different, weirdly tuned one to finish it out.  

Asking them for a social handle after seeing them play in a dark, mold covered Oakland basement would feel wrong and out of place. They were able to transport you to a time where none of that stuff mattered; where bands could get your attention just because they were cool. Instead of checking your phone, you’d have to pay attention to the show flyers stapled to telephone poles on East Carson Street to find out where and when they were playing next. Inconvenient, but refreshingly so. They truly are the real deal.

It’s been 5 years since the release of Resource Body and sadly, only a handful of Silver Car Crash appearances as of recently. The members have kept busy individually, playing with a myriad of different bands of all different genres, but mostly in Pittsburgh’s hardcore scene with bands like Speed Plans and Alamoans. However, Silver Car Crash’s looming hype as one of the best bands in the city hasn’t faded. Through little nuggets of whispers and rumors, it was revealed they were recording some of the new material they had been sneak-peaking at their scattered shows, which finally culminated into their fantastic and long awaited follow up record, Shattered Shine

The band was full steam ahead after the release of Resource Body, writing and performing songs for the follow up not long after, but their already blossoming maturity caused the process to be slowed down. “We recorded this whole thing once, and had to trash it,” Kapelewski says.  Various overdubs and mixing woes on the first attempt weren’t up to snuff. This caused some disappointment, followed by some confusion on what was going to happen with a record that they weren’t even into. “I think it got to a certain point where we were just gonna go with it. But we met a couple times after that and [agreed], we can’t…just do this,” Kapalewski says.  Walker adds “We tried to make this record three different times over the years.”

The patience the band had to possess to make the record the way they envisioned it paid off. It was eventually recorded with Pittsburgh engineer Nate Campisi at the legendary Mr. Small’s recording space, where the band put most of the songs to tape live and in one take, an element which was important for them to capture. “We wanted the album to sound like it would live. The approach was to be as good live and emphasize that over record,” Bennett says. You can hear and feel the energy and eagerness in the room as Walker’s pick scrapes introduce the raucous opening track, “Interference,” as well as in the bands tight, but free wheeling performance of the song. 

They’re sounding more confident than ever behind their instruments, which is a benefit of time they spent alone before jumping into the studio. “I got more confident as a singer from years of singing karaoke.” Bennett says, explaining his go-to song is Bowie’s “Moonage Daydream” before Walker reminds him that his rendition of “Head Like a Hole” is not so bad, either. Bennett shows off these newly found chops plenty of times, but most notably on “Never Really Had It” and “Pleasure Zone,” both of which use twinging guitar tones in their quiet to loud dynamics underneath Bennett’s pained vocal. Kapelewski, who usually delivers his vocals in a depressed lower register, is also intensely howling with a bravado on “Crime,” where he sings “say you’ll die in the car, now how many times? There’s pain in your crime, there’s pain in my crime,” in a song he wrote about an old friend who filmed themselves recklessly driving drunk on multiple occasions. 

“I was a lot sloppier of a musician before, but over [the pandemic], I would practice and practice all the time.” Bennett says. “I wanted to sidle everything down to its barest form. I wanted the songs to have a sense of physicality.” That endurance is needed to keep up with songs like “Sacred Repetition,” and “Minor Celebrity, both of which use tempos and chord changes straight from hardcore punk world that Kapelewski and Bennett are a part of. “Hardcore to me, is the roots of underground American rock. If you have one foot in that door, you’re immune to making mistakes” Bennett says of the 3 tracks. Although it is difficult to yell and strum your guitar at the same time, drummer Zack Mester’s has the hardest job of all, but manages to keep everything precise and intense all at the same time. 

There are other even bolder risks taken, especially on groove oriented “Sun Dried Tomatoes,” which is closest Silver Car Crash has ever come to making a dance song. The hip-shaking beat, thudding bass and muted guitar plucking is meant to convey an acceptance of an impending doom of the planet that is sung about in the lyrics. 

However, Silver Car Crash are at their very best when they’re and screaming about their own personal lives. The closing track, “Ways to Exist,” is song about a struggle to relate to your surroundings, where Bennett screams, “never thought id end up like this, gotta find new ways to exist” over top of chaotic guitars bashing against each other like go-carts. Although Bennett seems to be singing about a battle between himself and his situations, he and the band are remaining positive about the future and their surroundings. Bennet says, “I have to fight the voice in me that says [the album] will blow up. I wouldn’t be mad if it did. But I’d just like for people to finally hear this.”

Disappointing / Average / Good / Great / Phenomenal

Shattered Shine is out everywhere today with vinyl and cassette available via Crafted Sounds and Michi Tapes.

Nate Cross | @BigNafey

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