For those just tuning in, pig-fuck is the unfortunately titled genre of explosive post-punk that, at first, was cut in Chicago and the greater American Midwest in the 1980s and 1990s – think bombastic acts like Big Black, Vesuvian ones like The Jesus Lizard, and masters of the dirgier and grimier, like Killdozer. The genre, however, did not die with the millennium. The recently disbanded STNNNG, for example, sometimes skirted the line between art-punk and pig-fuck and was, arguably, one of the country’s best punk bands.
Well, Elephant Rifle officially has entered the mythos. The Reno-based group has followed up its incredible 2015 effort, Ivory – its self-described “serious record” – with an even more incredible outing, Hunk, out today via Humaniterrorist. In 2018, pig-fuck or noise-rock or whatever you want to call it doesn’t get any better than this.
Where Ivory seem concerned with precision, the sharpening of the blade, Hunk is more expansive and concerned with volume, not only in the sense of sound but also in the sense of size. There’s still an underlying tightness to the band, a sense of drone strikes in progress, on songs like the excellent “Fuck My Name,” “Big Milk” or the visceral “Sorority Row.” But, listen to the opener, “Hunks’ America,” and you’ll see what I mean – the band just sounds bigger and meaner than it did on Ivory, and for all of the right reasons.
But this is far from one sustained roar. On the creepy “Broomrider,” the band foregoes the typical riffage for a textured intro with jangly, borderline-acoustic guitar, found percussion and almost-whispered, raspy vocals. The thing eventually boils over, as much of the record is cranked to 11, but it’s an interesting diversion, a sign these guys know how to cook up the goods without relying on the old formulas.
Reno also plays a role in the new LP. The band has said, due to the size of its hometown and the hometown scene, it frequently plays bills with bands that don’t mirror its micro-niche. (Kudos to them for listening to music that doesn’t just sound like Elephant Rifle.) That sense of width is on display on a track like the infectious “Frat Poison,” which features a bizarrely addictive guitar-skank and buoyant bass that darts all over the landscape. It still sounds like Elephant Rifle – the bridges are introduced with a blood-curdling roar – but it’s what Elephant Rifle sounds like playing reggae. And, for some weird reason, it works.
In the end, though – and, literally, in the end, with a closer like “Nervous Talker” – this is a big rock record, 70s classic rock crossed with 90s noise-punk. The guitars are played loud, the bass drives, the drums pound, and frontman Brad Bynum, a keeper, barks like a man possessed. I’m all in; are you?