The second LP by Raleigh hardcore malingerers Double Negative, last year's Daydreamnation, was mercifully if frustratingly delayed. Fans wanted it, but the lag between LPs left plenty of time to appreciate the predecessors—the excellent opening salvo, The Wonderful and Frightening World of Double Negative, and the frenzied Raw Energy EP. But with its dense, enveloping textures and taut, explosive dynamics, Daydreamnation summarily rendered them obsolete. With those bruises still barely yellow, Double Negative has released the first two of its four Hardcore Confusion singles; they are as wonderful as they are frightening, another perfect progression for Double Negative that outstrips an already strong catalog.
Double Negative would have been forgiven for taking a breather here. Daydreamnation is still more than satisfying, and the band did just hire Charlotte-based drummer Bobby Michaud (readers might recognize him from his work in Queen City combos Grids and Brain F≠) to sit in for new father Brian Walsby. We'd understand a transitional period, with more promise than delivery. Or they could have rushed out a holding-pattern platter to fill the merch table on the band's recent tour. But that's not how Double Negative works.
In four tracks on as many sides, Double Negative again bests itself. Vol. 1's A-side, "Writhe," is the boast of a band with the luxury of bragging rights; they spread the tune's conclusion over 60 punishing seconds and one tar-slogging riff. Through repetition and back-masking effects, it sounds almost psychedelic before an abrupt exit. The minute sprint of the B-side's "Cunny Hop" makes the nearly three minutes of "Writhe" feel like a long weekend.
On Vol. 2, Double Negative is at its most rock 'n' roll, delighting in driving riffs and sneering vocal hooks on "Fat City Address," while "Face Jam" turns hissing feedback into the closest thing to a pop song Double Negative has ever done. Scott Williams' guitar blazes through the fuzz like a fighter jet, agile and aggressive.
There's no reason to doubt that Vols. 3 and 4, due later this year, will push Double Negative's hardcore into new and unexpected territory; historically, Double Negative is about beating its best. Now, as always, it's just difficult to imagine how.