Recording information: Reservoir, Victoria (07/2014).
Reader: Sarah Bethe Nelson.
Listening to Pain, the fourth full-length album from Melbourne, Australia noise merchants Deaf Wish, one can easily imagine having somehow tuned into a college radio broadcast from the late '80s in which the self-consciously cool disc jockey is spinning only the finest and artiest sides from the American indie underground -- plenty of Sonic Youth, some Live Skull, a few cuts from Hsker D and the Wipers, a dash of Minutemen, and a little Big Black for seasoning. The fact that a band from Australia doesn't seem to have any local influences (beyond the faintest shades of feedtime or the Birthday Party) seems more than a bit curious, but Deaf Wish's music has certainly earned them the right to wear their threadbare SST Records T-shirts, and Pain is an effective evocation of their musical obsessions. Guitarists Sarah Hardiman and Jensen Tjhung are a potent tag team, conjuring clouds of fuzzy noise or volleys of single-note shrapnel at will, and their vocals are similarly effective, advancing from mysterioso whispering to full-strength lunatic bellowing as their dynamics require. Bassist Nick Pratt and drummer Daniel Twomey add strength and velocity to the hail of guitar sounds, holding the songs in place as their incessant flail keeps these tunes charging toward their destinations. And though Deaf Wish appear to write songs primarily as a vehicle to structure the abuse meted out to their instruments, the aural architecture of these ten songs is pretty impressive. (And it's a good joke that the long and noisy coda to "Dead Air" sounds like a perfect set closer, except that the relaxed and relatively tuneful "Calypso" rolls out just as the amps have finally stopped ringing.) Once upon a time, Deaf Wish would have graced the cover of Forced Exposure and been the toast of the downtown noisemaking crowd; in the 21st century, they'll just have to settle for the knowledge that they've made one of the most joyously deafening albums of 2015. ~ Mark Deming
Billboard - "[O]ver 10 highly individualized tracks, the band veers across a diverse spectrum, mixing the avant-garde with the melodic."