This week in the generally excellent Popless column for the Onion A.V. Club, where staff writer Noel Murray has been spending all year going alphabetically through his music collection, Q and not U ended up in the "Also listened to" paragraph with a line through it, signifying deletion of the associated track from his computer hard drive. This post is therefore an attempt to rectify the cosmic balance of the universe, by highlighting the two essential records of that band.
In fact I'm guessing that Noel Murray only had songs from the band's (inessential) third album, Power. He's no particular punk/post-hardcore afficianado (look to articles by Jason Heller and Kyle Ryan for that) but he had written good pieces on Fugazi and Operation Ivy earlier in the series, so the deletion of Q and not U came as a surprise. Q and not U's first two albums, No Kill Beep Beep and Different Damage are definitely important records; their third and final, Power, is more ambiguous.
Q and not U were likely, with Lungfish, the finest band on Dischord Records post-2000, and probably the best of the entire period after the mid-90s. No Kill Beep Beep, released in 2000, combined the energy of late-period post-hardcore and nascent dance-punk; the follow-up, Different Damage, made a substantial leap towards experimentalism and electronic sounds. The style of Q and not U was on average perhaps more towards indie rock than punk, or closer post-punk than hardcore, but in any form it remained smart, political and intellectual music. No Kill Beep Beep, my introduction to the band, is a fascinatingly fresh record. It sounds almost emo, in its use of dynamics and in its overall expressiveness and energy; but it also blends this with another layer of complexity in the rhythms and movement of what for want of a better word (and with the consequence of deeply unflattering comparisons) has to be called 'dance-punk'.
The best thing to read about Q and not U is this post by Mr. Mammoth, which is an almost perfect article on two almost perfect albums. I don't think I could really add much to it, other than rephrasing what he has said already. Hence, all quotes below are from his work (the photographs are my own.)
I: No Kill Beep Beep, DIS 123
"...no kill no beep beep is furious and detached, a mix of biting social commentary ("fever sleeves," a bald, disdainful attack on fashion and the upper class)... these traits, of course, continued to set q and not u apart throughout its lifetime, but no kill no beep beep set the foundation and benchmark for the band. every song is worth listening to; every song is worth enjoying. the air crackles with energy in eardrums, their music tenacious, raw, and exhilarating."
"instantly recalling the more well-known art-hardcore of fellow d.c.ers the dismemberment plan, 'line in the sand' is taut and furious"
"trembles with prescient anxiety, fearful of a creeping evil"
(Picture: Hooray for Humans, Irish band, recent 7" - post here)
"the joy of sweaty moshpit dancing (the anthemic "hooray for humans," where klahr wails "D-O-W-N; and that's the way we get down!")"
II: Different Damage, DIS 133
"the first two songs.... set the album's tone, the divide between ferocity and reflection - 'soft pyramids' is almost tender, a sweet singalong that is starkly contrasted with its neighbor, the vitriolic 'so many calls,' a jittery and sneering attack on our broken healthcare system"
"'no damage nocturne,' towards the end of the album, is a return to clap-happy form, but falls more in line with 'soft pyramids' than 'line in the sand.' the preponderance of quiet songs on different damage does not foreshadow power in the least, and that album shocked as many longtime q and not u fans as it attracted new ones."
III - and beyond: Power, DIS 143
"in a way, i'm almost glad q and not u broke up after this album. their evolution from an arty post-hardcore dance-punk band to a not-so-arty, not even hardcore, dance (light on the punk) band is disappointing, to say the least. with power, they were able to curry the favor of the prevailing dance craze, embodied by bands like bloc party and the rapture, but this success came at the expense of their older punk ethic. power finds q and not u relying on synthesizers in an unprecedented way; whereas klahr and richards took turns playing bass on different damage, klahr stuck almost exclusively to his keyboards and synths on this album, propelling q and not u out of tiny clubs and into dance halls...."
Q and not U on Dischord
Coming up next week - The Shape of Punk to Come: 2001-2007 ; a mixtape