Ripped in No Time, the debut from Chapel Hill's Impossible Arms, mostly operates atop the well-tread terrain of guitar rock. It's not a particularly esoteric or unfamiliar record, but it's not particularly easy to get, either. That's not a criticism: Chief among Ripped In No Time's multitudinous charms is its ability to turn what might be flaws into virtues, revealing themselves slowly, all facets of a grower record that seems simple on the surface but is invitingly undecided at the core.
Despite well-placed string accoutrements from bassist Justin Blatt and keyboards courtesy of producer and Odessa Records ringleader, Paul Finn, Ripped In No Time is clearly a guitar trio record, ever returning to the stomp-and-slash of frontman, Mike Myerson. It chugs through its verses only to let loose in ragged, wrenched solos: "Nowhere At All" pummels like Mission of Burma and sears like Dinosaur Jr., adding scraping strings à la John Cale. There's the Misfits-y oh-oh-oh of "Big Plans." "No Way To Know" kicks off with Gang of Four boogie, while "Here on the Couch" dissolves into a warped solo reminiscent of some of Brian Eno's tonal excursions. There are black sheep songs, too, like the serene front-porch strum-'n-whistle of "Ghost Town," the acoustic blues that forms the instrumental "Keep'n Pace" and the overdriven fuzz-chamber punk of "Unite & Sever."
Just because those influences and references are audible, though, doesn't mean they're necessarily important. Better than some collegiate indie collage of imitation, Ripped doesn't resort to cheap tricks to engage the listener. Its allusions aren't ham-fisted imitations of its heroes, and there aren't any overwrought crescendos or false starts. Still, the album remains varied and calmly dynamic.
At first a solid indie-rock record, Ripped becomes something more as its intricacy and consideration bloom. Lyrically, familiar images and places recur, as Myerson strains his voice depicting small-town confinement and life after one's dreams have gone sour. His emotions move from resignation to acceptance and even to contentment, but they do so unassumingly. Myerson's voice fits the music, emoting with balance. Ripped In No Time, it seems, wasn't written for us, but simply gifted to us. It's an insular album, comfortable in its indecision and its intention to not give away its emotional center. We have to take the time to push past the hooks (which are great) and charged guitars (same) to uncover what's really going on.
Reconsider "A Last Resort," a staggering dirge of a guitar tune that opens with a scene of lonesome death: "The door was locked from the inside," Myerson sings, his voice refracted and delayed. "They had to pry a way in." He continues, moving the spotlight from the deceased to himself, "By the time I was sober, I'd been buried again." He harnesses his emotion into a teary, boisterous guitar solo, letting it bleed, if you will. Then he concludes the two-and-a-quarter-minute-long song with a resigned walk-off: "There's really nothing to tell."
But that, of course, only means there's so much left to tell. So it goes with Ripped In No Time, a record that tries to assure us upfront that there's really nothing to tell by wrapping its ideas in indie bedrock. With a little patience and a little prying at the door, we find there's plenty to tell and even more to hear, on repeat.
Impossible Arms play Nightlight with Quasar Abode and Inspector 22 Thursday, June 18, at 9:30 p.m. Admission is $5.