For their third release in under a year, Midwives don’t go with a radically different formula, but this self-titled LP still feels like a significant step forward for the band’s sound. In terms of two-minute hardcore, sonic variations tend to be subtle. The ten songs on Midwives don’t stray too far from those stylistic confines—they just sometimes make two minutes feel epic, somehow.

One way Midwives trick your brain is by utilizing non-song space in a way that would seem inefficient if it weren’t so essential to the overall flow of the record. The preamble to opening track “The Tourist” is actually longer than the song itself, creating a portentous build-up of potential energy that suggests something much grander than a 50-second burst of punk rock. As such, it’s tempting to hear the record as a single 16-minute suite. It could also be taken as definitive proof that most rock and roll songs are bloated, overblown exercises in wankery.

Take “Crow Meat,” for example: straight-ahead hardcore for about 20 seconds, then a half-minute of Nirvana-esque slow-punk grind, a succinct yet fully-formed piece of music. The single slow dirge on the album, “Dirty Pictures,” packs a Melvins-level dose of drone punk into two minutes, but it feels like an eternity, particularly given the fact that it’s preceded by a good 30 seconds of nebulous feedback and noise. Why would they “waste” all that time when they’ve got so little to work with? Neat trick, that.

Even at its most DIY, Midwives is an accomplished set of tunes that couldn’t possibly be trimmed down any further. After the belligerently lo-fi sound of last August’s split cassette release with Foreign Lawns, this one feels positively polished, but it’s also more aggressive than the band’s debut EP from last spring. It’s hard not to wish the thing was longer, but the way Midwives have been cranking out releases, we probably won’t have much of a wait for more. Another year or two and the discography could be a full hour long!

Before a release show Sunday, February 22 at Cocoon Room, listen to Midwives now, only at Milwaukee Record.

About The Author

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Cal Roach is a writer (here, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and radio DJ (WMSE 91.7 FM) who has lived in Riverwest for most of the past two decades.