From the ashes of death rises a phoenix, the same could be said of Brooklyn supergroup Public Practice. The band is comprised of half the members of the deceased post-punk group WALL which were due to be a breakout act on the indie landscape. Singer Samantha York and guitarist Vince McClelland return to the scene, joined by Beverly’s Drew Citron and Scott Rosenthal turning their former project’s abrasive sound into a swell of dance goodness. Their debut EP Distance Is a Mirror brings a much-needed breath of fresh air to the Brooklyn scene by creating a sound which hearkens back to the city’s danceable past. In a world divided among party lines with a leader whose incapable of bridging a divide, it becomes difficult to even crack a smile. Groups such as The B-52’s and Talking Heads (major influences on this EP) were able to channel the anxiety of the Cold War era’s nuclear threat to create cheerful songs with a looming sense of dread in the background. Public Practice excels in creating a concise project which falls right in line with its predecessors but updated for a whole new time of political unrest.
“Fate/Glory” sets the tone with a slick bass line provided by Citron as McClelland’s guitar wales in the background. As York paints a picture of the current state, “… a looming dark fate, this is the high // … we gift our souls to a life left wanting”. A critique on our ravenous hunger for “fame and glory” which leaves us hollow in the end as York and Citron harmonize a bitter truth, “fear turned to grief, and the grief turned cold”. The track’s tempo begins to speed up with Rosenthal’s drums emerging in the mix. “I watch our paths fade, pour it down the drain, pour it down the drain”, York sings as the song comes to an abrupt end.
In seconds we’re scooped right back up as McClelland’s guitar slides into the room with a welcomed swagger for “Bad Girl(s)”. York begins by listing out rules that toxic masculinity has set up for woman, “You say what I’m supposed to talk like, you say how I’m supposed to act like, you say who I’m supposed to hate to keep me on your side”. Followed by a roaring declaration by York, ” I won’t play your games, I don’t need your shame” while Citron echoes “Bad Girls”. A true anthem for the #metoo movement, a revolution not bound to be determined by the male dominated constraints of the past. Clocking in at 2:07, the song packs a punch never slowing down with a ripping breakdown at the halfway mark with McClelland’s bright descending riffs taking center stage for a moment.
In “Foundation” McClelland’s loops and Citron’s hipnotic bass lines intro us to a dada-like soliloquy provided by York whose lost meaning in her old life’s cushion and is now, “looking for a new house to call my own”. At the 1:00″ mark the song transforms into one of the album’s highlights, James Brown top-heavy guitar playing which is a sight for soar ears to hear. While most bands prefer to stay behind the beat, Public Practice remains in time and precise with every note. It sounds almost like it was a B-side track left off an album by no wave heroes such as Delta 5, label mates Bush Tetras or James Chance. York uses her vocals as an instrument during these tug and pull moments to describe this house of ideology, “strength and structure built this house and their’s no room for you // too bad these things always work out this way, that way”.
The EP comes to a conclusion on my favorite track “Into the Ring” which is the most accessible on the project. Here Citron and York’s harmonies are on full display providing some of the best vocal deliveries on the album. It sheds those robotic deliveries to create an honest human song with heart and soul. “…heavy we stood with the weight on my mind, we changed the game, we made this fight”, they counter to one another. The track takes a turn for a pop anthem in the vein of The Breeders and Sleater-Kinney. Its uplifting message of taking on the fight and never backing down hits a chord leaving the listener ready to take on the world. Its a sharp diversion from “Fate/Glory” which chooses to sit idly back as a spectator, never taking action. Near the end, York encapsulates the project in a phrase, “We entered this fight thinking we knew who was gonna win // we wanted to see them dance to death”. Distance Is a Mirror is a strong debut that conjures some of the retromania that has thrived in the Brooklyn scene over the past couple of years. However by choosing to end on a track which strays from those usual conventions they come into their own, leaving us to anticipate how great their debut will be if it follows on the promise of its finale.