This Is My Truth. (or, Freight Will Make Believers Of Us All.)

(Freight @ Cactus Club, 01.25.08, courtesy of TWChicorel)

By Brian Whitney

Those who did not attend last night’s Health show at the Borg Ward missed a collision with Freight. There’s a moment in The Who’s The Kids Are Alright movie where Pete Townsend discusses why the band used large amplifier stacks early in their career, before this was common practice. Pete’s reasoning was something along the lines of “When we’re playing, you’re not here to drink, or chase girls, or catch up with friends, but to watch us. This is our room and we’re going to command it.”

This is a rare thing in bands these days, but Freight completely wrests your attention from your cell phone, friends, or any other distractions that may be present. Health may have been the headliner, but anyone disputing that the Borg Ward was ultimately Freight’s room last night would be lying to themselves.

Freight have their feet firmly planted in the Public Image Ltd / Birthday Party / Jesus Lizard lineage, an imposing family tree that several modern groups try to emulate with limited success. (Pennsylvania punks Pissed Jeans come the closest, with Louisville’s Young Widows not being devoted enough to repetition to truly inherit the torch, and Philly’s Clockcleaner more interested in inventing tales of debauchery than writing songs better than Killdozer throwaways.) Freight truly beat the rhythms of their songs into you, with a machine-like precision that is completely unstoppable once it gets going. There are few surprises built into their songs, but there really don’t need to be any. Like a skydiver who mixed up his backpack with his parachute, what’s going to happen is clear, but that doesn’t make it any less worthwhile or valid. The guitar and vocals seemingly float overhead, owing plenty to John Lydon’s aforementioned second band as well as Kraftwerk and other purveyors of mechanical precision.

Even if these types of bands aren’t exactly your scene, you have to admire the band’s performance. Whether they are or not, they appear 100% sure of themselves as they perform, which seems simple enough until you start going to local shows and see how few groups actually do it. It’s a lot easier to hunch your shoulders, hold back, and play self-conscious so no one criticizes you, but Freight doesn’t have this kind of cop out in their vocabulary, musically or otherwise. It makes their performance that much more commanding, and makes them a truly legitimate and realized project.

While I heard a lot of talk of the Touch and Go influence on the Milwaukee scene, I have yet to see a band embody it as fully as Freight, and I mean this in the best possible way. The band is not playing soundalike versions of other bands’ songs, but embodying the spirit of these bands. The aggressive indie band has been conspicuously absent from the recent music scene. Too many bands are settling, turning down the distortion and preparing for the iPod commercial/OC guest spot (maybe that new 90210 show now?) or copping a feel on some African tribal/Eastern string influence. Freight aren’t doing any of that shit, and I’m grateful.


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