Sensory Overload: Battleships

By Columbus Alive
From the January 5, 2012 edition

If we’re going to dust off everything else from the ’90s, why not scream, too? Monday’s Carabar headliners, the Louisville combo Xerxes, are expert students of the wits’-end wild-out. I showed up in time to see whether their Columbus counterparts, Battleships, could stand toe-to-toe.

Actually, they probably stepped on a few toes, what with their dual frontmen stomping around on the checkered floor in front of the stage that often constitutes the neutral zone between band and audience.

No such buffer with Battleships. They weren’t as aggressively in-your-face as some of the floor-stalkers I’ve encountered at Carabar, but they weren’t above stirring up some good old-fashioned moshing amongst the faithful.

In case there’s any confusion about what I mean by “screamo,” it’s not the mall-friendly melodic offshoots that made the genre massive a decade ago (think Thursday or Hawthorne Heights) so much as the emotional blitzkrieg of forebears like Refused and At the Drive-In, or perhaps the even more extreme and obscure angst-ridden bands before them.

Xerxes and Battleship are the sort that shriek until heart, lungs and digestive tract have graced the floor with a Pollack splatter of emotional wreckage. They make hearty Midwest basement music built on relentlessly heavy rhythm sections and gleaming high-pitched guitar work. Hearing this stuff is like riding a slingshot to the teenage DIY shows that enticed and intimidated me as a measly adolescent.

Battleships’ bursts weren’t all that refined, nor was their take on the genre revolutionary. But the physical effect of so much chaos stirring up front lent a lot of power to the musical assault.

I could rarely make out the lyrics, which renders screamo of this strain suitable for tantrums of all stripes. On the other hand, when you’re not feeling particularly upset, it’s hard to keep paying attention to a band like this beyond two or three songs unless they shift into a gear Battleships hasn’t discovered yet.

Upon reaching my saturation point, I began wishing I could understand the words so I could connect with whatever they were so upset about. I have my doubts about their deadpan declaration that “all these songs are about baseball,” but then again, thinking about my favorite Ohio teams make me feel the kind of pain and confusion that inhabits every Battleships song, so bravo, boys.