Song You Need to Know: The Messthetics, ‘Better Wings’

Fugazi’s songs were filled with fierce, ear-catching guitarwork, but out-and-out solos? Not so much. That’s why it’s so fascinating to hear the post-hardcore heroes’ rhythm section, bassist Joe Lally and drummer Brendan Canty, playing in a new group, the Messthetics, that’s practically built around the idea of giving the guitar room to soar.

Case in point: “Better Wings,” a recently released track from the instrumental trio’s upcoming second LP, Anthropocosmic Nest, out September 6th. After setting up a driving riff, guitarist Anthony Pirog — a seasoned player equally steeped in jazz, surf, punk, and roots music — shifts into whirring lines that complement Lally and Canty’s fleet, muscular groove. Around the 1:30 mark, Pirog ramps up the intensity, letting fly with nimble melodic wizardy, and building from ecstatic trills to dazzling fretboard acrobatics that wouldn’t sound out of place on a 1980s shred-guitar LP.

The moment feels completely apt in context, a testament to the Messthetics’ skillful integration of punk scrappiness with a brand of unabashed virtuosity that might have once seemed highly unusual for a band releasing albums via legendary D.C. indie Dischord. Pirog’s tasteful flash only gets more audacious from there, before Canty and Lally drive the song home with an emphatic half-time outro.

Overall, “Better Wings” and the Messthetics’ approach as a whole serves as a reminder that hardcore has always had its exploratory, fusion-leaning wing: Think of Black Flag’s instrumental excursions, guitarist Greg Ginn’s offshoot trio Gone, or the influence of groups like Return to Forever on the early work of the Bad Brains. As Lally and Canty’s old band — who seamlessly blended dub and funk influences with their more aggressive side — proved way back when, punk isn’t always about what you strip away from rock; sometimes it’s about what you can find a way to include.

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