Local music: The Town Monster

  • Photo by Jodi Miller
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From the October 18, 2012 edition

The Town Monster’s new album is called New Life, but don’t mistake the title for an allusion to the lineup change that pared the Columbus quartet to a duo. (Actually, the bombastic title track is the last song they attempted as a four-piece.)

In typically fantastical fashion, the song is about “a guy who kind of freaks out and leaves his life behind, who goes and gets plastic surgery and sells his car and leaves his wife and goes to start a new life,” frontman Nathan Photos said.

Coincidence or not, it’s appropriate that Photos and drummer Matt Grady are releasing an eight-song meditation on metamorphosis months after reshaping the band they founded together four years ago.

They parted with guitarist/keyboardist James Allison and bassist Brad Wilson due to widespread busyness. With so many bands and commitments competing for time between the four of them, The Town Monster couldn’t write new songs or rehearse old ones.

“We found ourselves playing the same setlist for a long time,” Photos said.

The lack of progress was galling for a band accustomed to being prolific. This is the group that released an EP every month in 2010, plus debut LP Autumn People and an animated Christmas special.

“I was really intent on making an album that was more of a collaborative effort,” Photos said. “One thing led to another, and a year later we hadn’t recorded anything.”

In contrast, Photos and Grady only needed two months to create New Life, an album that encapsulates The Town Monster’s diverse strengths better than ever.

The guitars on last year’s Reznor-indebted single “Bela Lugosi” crunch even harder than before. “Misfit” morphs from Prodigy-style big beat into Beirut with synthesizers. “Built Myself a Girl” channels Beck’s bizarre dance odyssey Midnite Vultures. “This World” resembles Ministry at its most crushing.

The stage show is forging ahead too. Friday’s release party at Skully’s involves “malleable” video projections from Photos’ laptop and performance art from Natalie Wetzel. As Photos put it, “There’s just too much cool stuff to do.”