Review: Public Practice dance through modern life with debut album ‘Gentle Grip’

Music (or any art for that matter) that originates from NYC seemingly transmits this unshakeable sheen. From Velvet Underground to Talking Heads to Beastie Boys to Yeah Yeah Yeahs, these artists carry this unconquerable self-belief and nonchalant cool that transcends into their art. ‘Gentle Grip’ sees Public Practice carrying that mantle to aplomb.

Forming to early acclaim Public Practice are a Brooklyn-based band reviving ‘70s New York with their intoxicating brand of no wave-tinged dark disco. ‘Gentle Grip’ is their first furore into album territory.

Opening track ‘Moon’ is a dark place to start. A number that starts under the jurisdiction of swelling bass with flickering flashes of Vocalist Sam York’s voice that only gets more and more shrill as the track progresses. “She is the moon / she is the moon” bellows York as if she is attending a midnight summoning with witches.

If this was a relay, it’s time for ‘Cities’ to take the mantle. A song that is decidedly opposite musically to its predecessor, ‘Cities’ comes across as a soundtrack for a Crash Bandicoot PS1 game, but also a roughly sewn together head bopping disco record full of indie-tinged punk. ‘My Head’ takes over now. In keeping with the lighter side of the musical spectrum the track shines with Reggae roots that has you closing your eyes and imagining the sun beating on your skin whilst you shimmy at a festival fucked off your face trying to keep your bum bag and rollie from slipping onto the grassy terrain. It then somehow launches into strings that are more funky town that pass the dutchie, but you keep dancing all the same.

We then come to ‘Compromised’. A more direct riff orientated tune that is completely brash and oh so catchy. It’s as if Blondie has teamed up with circa 2005 Bloc Party to take over your airwaves and senses. The bands Sam York dissected the track earlier in the year: ’Compromised’ deals with the moral gymnastics that many of us struggle with daily just to be a human in this world. How do we balance our desire for material pleasures with our need to be seen as moral and good? What’s more important, the shoe or where it came from? How it was made or how it looks? I am no shining example and I struggle with this constantly.”

This combined with the video for the track (“Inspired by luscious lips, dazzling eyes and manicured hands of the past, we recreated layouts, postures, and makeup techniques from vintage cosmetic advertisements. The video splits the body into eyes, lips, and hands – bringing the artwork of Public Practice’s music to life.”) gives us more context of PP’s world and how the album shapes up as a view into the bands’ interaction with the almost psychological warfare that is modern day advertising. The billboards, the flashing lights, the sales and where your desire, and what’s more your existence, fits in between all of that.

As the album gallops towards its final stretch we arrive at ‘How I like it’ – arguably the most fun track on the record. Coming in at a little under 2 minutes, How I like it is musically the most Nirvana B-side sounding thing without actually being a Cobain A-side cast-off. The thudding drums and the siren-esque screeching guitar lines take the limelight here. Album closer Hesitation is a great way to end a record. Sludgy bass tone takes centre stage as the track begins before the track builds to an ever increasing summit of twangy guitars that would sit nicely over a cool end of movie fight scene…or if you’re feeling nerdy a Power Rangers Megazord kicking arse.

The album carries a panache of differing sounds and very few forgettable tracks, but is clearly centred around the idea of modern life and how to keep dancing through all of your anxieties. A solid beginning for a band that definitely have a knack for a tune or two.

The new issue of So Young is out now. It’s SOLD OUT in print but you can read the digital edition below.