Upon seeing their name attached to Envelope’s New Year’s Eve show at Ace of Cups, my first reaction was: Who the hell is Sex Tide?
Some poor young lady named Tracy had the same thought when I inadvertently texted her (using an apparently defunct phone number for a dude who isn’t even in the band anymore) to find out what time Sex Tide was playing in Thursday in the band’s grand return trip to Ace of Cups. Her response went like this:
“And what is sex tide lmfao”
Thankfully (no thanks to Tracy) I arrived in time to see Sex Tide rip it up. The trio practices a primitive brand of punk rock, a deconstructed mash of primal howls and clanging blues riffs culled from filthy gutters, guilty consciences and art school lecture halls.
“Practices” probably isn’t the best verb for Sex Tide, though. Their music felt intentionally slipshod — the kind of band where it doesn’t really matter if the kick drum mic falls over. Imagine Times New Viking without the pop inclinations.
At the center of the action was "Aurelie." She drummed standing up a la Moe Tucker while barking and bellowing with the mournful antagonism of Nico on a bender.
At stage left stood Chad Shepherd (Sword Heaven, Jam Division, The Something Somethings), a mainstay of the artsy Downtown scene orbiting Skylab and The Shelf, making all kinds of racket.
Davey Highben (he of the defunct phone number) used to man the other ax, but in January Aurelie’s fiance Chris Corbin took over. Corbin is a veteran of Athens garage punk ragers Geraldine and Dropdead Sons that long since relocated to Columbus. He unspools abrasive guitar gunk as well, but also prettier riffs that make this music go down much easier.
Corbin’s melodious offerings make sense because Sex Tide is relatively song-oriented compared with other bands of raw, shapeless noise-punk stock. But I found myself wishing they would slide one way or the other. Their music seemed stuck in a netherworld between old-school rock ’n’ roll satisfaction and outright sonic brutality, and though I suspect they inhabit that region by design, it’s a place too ugly to visit without the benefit of revelatory songwriting or the occasional heart-stopping climax.