With a previous EP ("Rivolta Silenziosa") the US wandering HUMANWINE introduced us full-on to their narrative world of Vinland. They matched the metaphor-as-politics (and vice versa) stories with a gutter-circus-folk sound style that was a stunning marriage of simplicity and subtlety. It's sepiachord required listening.
On their full-length follow up, "Fighting Naked", the band continued to explore their Vinlandish themes but the music had more of a "rock" feel. The end result was good, but the band seemed a little uncomfortable in their new skin.
The new EP ("Mass Exodus") finds the band returning to a three song format and returning to more pared down arrangements. The results are arresting.
Of the three pieces found on this CD the last, "Our Devolution is Televised", best continues the work that Vinland fans love. It's political (of course) and features an infectious circus bounce. It could easily have been slipped in as the fourth track on "Rivolta Silenziosa" and held its own against the great songs found there.
The opening piece on this new EP is also overtly political: "1st Amendment". Its "be the media" messsage might come across as a nuts-and-bolts politcal screed... were it not so spare and, well, pretty. It builds and flows nicely showing off the performers individual strengths especially Holly Brewer's remarkable voice. Its a perfect appetizer for the middle piece: "Megan Rose".
"Megan Rose" seems to pre-date the existence of HUMANWINE as a band and features Holly alone, just her voice and a piano. When the song starts you'd be forgiven for thinking that this is merely a ballad of friendship to the title character. It *IS* that, but takes stomach-wrenching turns that are all the more powerful because you don't see them coming. This is the key to tragedy: you don't see it coming. "Megan Rose" is a beautiful, seductive PUNCH IN THE GUT that will make you cough up a bit of blood and still make you want to play it over and over... even if, like me, you found yourself on the verge of tears the first time you heard it. This really is one of those songs that descriptions fail for, you have to sit down and listen to it. And you should.
HUMWINE's DIY aesthetic has never been more clear in their sound ~and~ in the EP's visual presentation. Not only does the look and feel of the packaging clearly place the band in the line of descent from seminal grass-roots political rollickers Crass but HUMANWINE does something other bands never seem to do: give credit where it's due!
Lots of politically charged punk bands have aped the art of Crass, but this is the first time I can think of where credit for inspiration is given to the artist responsible for this distinctive look: Gee Vaucher. Kudos.