Seen as the meeting point between New York’s thriving trashy rock and clashy electro scenes, the reality is that A.R.E. Weapons offer a lot more than a contrived halfway house between fashionable polarities. Far from being the slavish disciples of Alan Vega and Martin Rev their singles might suggest, Weapons Matthew McAuley, Paul Sevigny and Brain have crafted an album of ruthlessly effective 21st-century rock’n’roll, shot through with raw, lo-fi electronics.
With this concise (under 37 minutes!) debut, A.R.E. go further than the mere crossbreeding of Gotham’s current, voguish sounds; they encompass the entire fucked-up lowlife tradition of NYC rock, taking in not only Suicide but Lou Reed (particularly the Street Hassle era), New York Dolls, Ramones and early Beastie Boys.
One thing all these acts have in common (pace Reed) is a last-gang-in-town, misfit mentality. A.R.E.’s outsiderdom may or may not be counterfeit, but when tunes like opening rallying call “Don’t Be Scared” are this grimily uplifting, this downright inventive and inspirational (“Life was meant to be awesome”), authenticity of credentials barely matters.
The album doesn’t just bludgeon. There is an attention to detail, an appreciation of dynamics at work in the knife-edge narco-tension of “Strange Dust” and the eerie Assault On Precinct 13 chill of “Headbanger Face”, while the primitive synthesized drum patterns suggest more than a passing familiarity with hip hop stretching from Run-DMC through The Bomb Squad right up to the Neptunes.
For all their street-fighting posturing, A.R.E. cultivate an inclusive vibe and a generosity of spirit, epitomised by anthemic closer “Hey World”. This song for ‘the kids’is genuinely affecting, pleading for tolerance in the hope we may endure this “fucking miserable solution that we call life”.
Electroclash? This is rock’n’roll, pure and simple.