Relaxing Death Album Review
Useless Eaters
  • 3/5
Reviewed by Jen Dan

San Francisco-based punk band Useless Eaters, helmed by Seth Sutton, puts a mirror up to society’s decline on Relaxing Death.

San Francisco (by way of Memphis)-based punk band Useless Eaters is the product of one Seth Sutton, the founder, front man, and mastermind of the band.  A run of Useless Eaters tunes, in 7”, EP, and album-length forms has been released over the past several years on a slew of indie labels like Burger Records, Manimal Vinyl, and Slovenly Records.  Sutton’s next Useless Eaters-related (ad)venture is the album Relaxing Death, slated for release June 3rd via the all-things-indie-punk label Castle Face Records.

Sutton and his cohorts dropped lead single “Moist Cuts” a few weeks ago and it’s rife with buzzing, distorted, striking strife in the shape of an unrelenting, cantering beat, quick stabs of guitar, bass line grind, and Sutton’s echoed, short-phrase exclamations.  Useless Eaters is on tour through June and the brief, sharp, and the noisy nature of the tracks on the perversely-named Relaxing Death lend well to the live setting as opposed to headphones-listening.  Sutton has stated that the concept behind Relaxing Death is the display of differing viewpoints on society’s decline. He hits the mark on this point by reflecting civilization’s destruction with each song’s discordant and repetitive instrumental and vocal cycles.

“Motorway” mimics traffic noises, from cheap car horn beeps, zipping-by vehicles, and siren-type sounds with Sutton intoning atonally spare and dire lyrics like, “Life is simple on the motorway / Cars crash throughout the day.”  The recurring loops, seemingly canned beats, traffic noises, and stiff vocals are not exactly pleasant – just like actually trying to drive on the strident, stressful, congested, and polluted highway.

Angular jabs of bass, shaken reverb percussion, a kinetic drum beat, and Sutton’s harsh and manipulated vocals run through “Tip Of The Valley”.  The drums beat out a repetitive, and exhausting, pattern amid the aggressive, detuned buzz while Sutton’s exclaimed vocals can barely be made out.  While Sutton has something to say, it gets lost in translation amid the cacophonous sonic din and way-too-echoed vocals. 

Maybe in reference to the meaning of the band’s name, on the synth-punk number “Electrical Outlet” Sutton mildly shouts, “Put my head into the gas chambers / Keep it out of reach keep it out of sight.”  The off-kilter sonic clamor creates a manically agitated vibe, while the angular, Asian-inspired guitar riffs hold more interest due to their unexpected placement and unusual nature. 

The title track is structured more like a rock song with recognizable verse and chorus sections.  Sutton’s plainly shouted vocals can be heard above the jarringly abrasive fray as he bemoans, “The price I pay / It was not free / Too weak to stop / Take my last breath / Relaxing death.”  Maybe the phrase “relaxing death” is not quite a misnomer after all and the take-home message is that the struggle of living is full of turmoil, pain, and decline, while peace and calm exist for the dead…

That this revelation is achieved via intentionally punishing, dashing and crashing – and too repetitive – instrumental tumult and harsh vocals, however, ends up being taxing, and not relaxing, over the course of the 12 song-long album.  But again, maybe that’s what Useless Eaters wants the listening experience to be – a deconstructive, disorienting, dissonant sonic mirror of the world’s disconnection, disorder, and destruction…


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