Debut EPs are tricky. It’s an elevator pitch; you’ve got a scant amount of time to put your best foot forward and give listeners a reason to come back for more. Curation is key. If you’ve got a setlist worth of songs, you need to decide what snippet of material best represents your band’s identity. This must have been especially tough for Ottawa, ON’s Flaws when they were assembling their blink-and-you’ll-miss-it EP Vesta. The recording includes three (more like two and a half) songs that are so different from one another, it’s hard to say exactly what these fellas are all about.
First track “Canvas of Nothing” blasts out of the gate as a furious, frenetic ball of pent-up punk energy with a tone and velocity reminiscent of classic 80s hardcore. Just as I assume I’m in for two minutes of rather good Black Flag worship, the song takes a brief but wonderfully angular, melodic turn. Drummer Alex Gravelle throttles back from a raging gallop to deliver a mid-tempo backbeat that supports a joyful, major key riff over which guitarist Kyle Jordan lays down a downright whimsical lead line. Singer Mike Vongunten’s manic, spoken word delivery during this part of the song provides this more subdued section with a pensive urgency that is almost as intense as his previously employed throaty bellow. This tonal shift, which builds towards an anthemic, sing-along ending adds a level of depth and complexity that takes the song from simple, aggro punk flair to something truly memorable.
As soon as you think you’ve got Flaws pegged, “Self-Indulgent Rock Song” goes full-on, fuzzed-out mid-tempo blues rock and the connection to the first track would be fairly tenuous if not for Vongunten’s snarling vocals, replete with an audible loogie-hock at the end. Think Howlin’ Wolf meets Keith Morris. Of course, the tongue-in-cheek title suggests that Flaws are totally aware of this incongruity, and rightly don’t give a shit about listener expectations.
The final track on Vesta, however, is puzzling. “I Don’t Lose Anything Too, Anyways” features a variety of samples, including a typewriter, high-pitched string instruments, and wind chimes that provide an eerie, ethereal backdrop to a religious sermon concerning the Bride of Christ. While the track is interesting and well composed, these ambient, found-sound sample tracks tend to work better when placed within a full-length record as a type of sonic amuse-bouche. On a three-track EP, this sort of thing takes up far too much space and feels completely out of context.
Despite its disjointed nature, Vesta serves up a pair of solid songs, including one that should absolutely sell punk fans on future Flaws output.
Written by Jesse Gainer
*edited by Danielle Kenedy