New York’s Public Practice is an art-rock outfit from the ashes of post-punk band WALL and Beverly. Their debut album Gentle Grip meshes together their punk roots with lively 70’s disco and groovy funk bass lines into a highly stylish and evocative blend of rock. While most of this 12-track listing is filled with danceable tracks with hypnotic grooves that invites listeners to move, its narrative delves on a lot of dark themes and issues, providing a stark look at the hardships of navigating through a world slowly fading into chaos. These two motifs create a string of tension that the band plays around with wonderfully, resulting in a vibrant and highly compelling listen.
The collection opens with “Moon”, where a pulsing bass and industrial and electronic drones sweep through the landscape in a swell of volatile energy. Singer Samantha York’s voice looms over like a celestial overlord declaring her superiority in a song that hardly resembles any other in the album. “Cities” combines classic disco melodies and grooves while York describes a city that is slowly deteriorating before our eyes: “Currents ignite tensions shared / Between building blocks and man”. The stark contrast between the Abba-like chorus and its bleak outlook creates a conflict that’s hard to contend with. Elsewhere, in “Compromised” York sings : “You don’t wanna live a lie (But it’s easy)” commenting on how hard it is to escape the traps of consumerism due to its convenience.
In “My Head” the album reaches its disco peak, ticking all the boxes with its groovy bass, funky guitars and transcending keyboard fills. York sings about all the overwhelming voices in her head in a song that entices everyone to whip out their long-forgotten dance moves along with their musky old bell bottoms.
Tracks such as “Each Other” showcases the band’s punk roots with its angular guitars and a mosh-pit inducing chorus. The same goes for “How I Like It”, where guitarist Vince McCellend steps in the lead vocal role in a track full of rumbling bass and atonal guitar noise.
The album ends with “Hesitation” where the rhythms turn into a binary stop and go motion. The lyrics go into a similar tug-of-war that seemingly goes nowhere with one line expressing the need to “disconnect from your desire” while the bridge opposes with an accusatory: “You say you change.”
Gentle Grip dips into a lot of different styles while stringing its listeners along with music that’s smart and inviting. A one-two punch that Public Practice has masterfully executed in this stunning debut.