Gnawing - Modern Survival Techniques
“Fuzzy, tangled, and sardonic” – Stereogum
“Straightforward and thoroughly enjoyable alt rock” – Under the Radar
“Equal parts Pavement and early Green Day but in a way that’s clearly Gnawing’s own” – The Alternative
“Last year tried to kill me,” vocalist John Russell sings out at the very start of Gnawing’s new record Modern Survival Techniques. It’s not an unfamiliar sentiment at this point. It’s a familiar story, the story of the band who lost out on big tours due to COVID and whose LPs got screwed on vinyl backlog and almost broke up. For Gnawing, though, it’s more than a story. “Honestly,” Russell says, “I thought Gnawing was toast.”
That stress and frustration could’ve been the end of the band–but instead they channeled it into crafting their tightest collection of songs yet. It boils over in “Clean Up Your Act (Redux),” a 54-second burst of hardcore fury, and it leaves its mark all over the fuzzy “Skweegee”: “I think I’m coming undone / being numb has lost its fun.” There are other tracks on Modern Survival Techniques that abandon that rage and anxiety and settle into the band’s classic slacker rock sound: the opening pairing of the bouncy “Off Screen Death” and “Gimme Tinnitus” would feel at home on 2021’s You Freak Me Out, and the garage rock hook of “I Saw a Ghost” is airy and anthemic.
It’s in the record’s final ten or so minutes, though, that Modern Survival Techniques really comes into clear focus. The penultimate “Cool/Uncool” is twangy and crisp, leaning into some latent alt-country influence and letting the band stew in the atmosphere for five minutes, and the closing “Amherst Jam” is Gnawing at their loosest. Russell’s barely audible over the track, which feels like a spacey, folksy, foggy coda to the preceding half hour. Like the title suggests, it hardly sounds rehearsed at all. It sounds like a band in tune with one another, just doing what feels natural. Like Russell says of the album, “Amherst Jam” really “sounds like four friends in a cabin having fun and really enjoying playing music together” – and it just so happens they made something special in the process.