Review: Soft Shoulder – Copy Machine Fall Down (Gilgongo, Mar 12)

Soft Shoulder’s 2020 LP Not the New One was and is everything I want in a scuzzy, shifty slab of deconstructive art-punk: rudimentary garage jams and trash-can-lid drums, $5-plastic-megaphone vocals, off-kilter arrangements, churning background collages, you name it. What I didn’t know until much more recently is that the Arizona-based collective has been kicking a lot longer—since 2010, in fact—and that they have made the entire 7″ format their bitch. Copy Machine Fall Down is just the newest in a long line of excellent singles, double-singles, and lathes, but there’s something about it that really makes it stand out. It could be how much the A-side track, “Touchless Display,” reminds me of Stutter’s forgotten classic Broken Snakes, the blueprint for pretty much any contemporary species of pasted-together-punk or rhythmic collage freakout; it helps that the track, along with its partner on the B side, was in fact assembled remotely by the groups most mainstayish member, James Fella. These roughly wrangled recordings twist into a dubby backbone that somehow lumbers and skitters at the same time and then into, well, the compositional equivalent of a spine lying in disconnected piles of jagged vertebrae on a cement floor. Anxious sax skronk, clumsy guitar detritus, and jarringly apathetic vocal ramble make the nearly 7-minute “Treat for Samson” an unforgettable clusterfuck.