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Greys are a loud rock band from Toronto. Feel like you’re up to speed? As self-appraisals go, it’s a bit sparse, but it tells you all you need to know about the band without the pretentious accoutrements. It’s short, fast, and to the point – much like their debut album, If Anything.
There are plenty of other adjectives one could associate with the band: Caustic. Brash. Noisy. Abrasive. Dissonant. Melodic. Sarcastic. Explosive. It’s immediately apparent that the young quartet graduated from the School Of Noise Rock, Class Of ‘93, and their professors were guys like Reis, Denison, MacKaye and Cobain. So have many others, sure, but where Greys differentiate themselves is their economic distillation of those lessons into a funhouse mirror reflection of punk rock.
One needn’t look any further than the first two songs on If Anything for clarification. The opening track and lead single, “Guy Picciotto,” kicks the album off with a cacophony of noise which quickly races into a driving sing-song that recreates the familiar-to-millions moment of life-altering inspiration and identification with idols like the titular Fugazi guitarist. Shehzaad Jiwani and Cam Graham’s guitars propel the song skyward as Jiwani yells wistfully, “There goes my hero/He plays the same guitar as me/When I see him flying right off the stage/I want to be like him every day in every way.”
The band was formed in 2011 over a mutual appreciation for huge guitars and mathy rhythms. Three EPs in as many years (2011’s Ultra Sorta, 2012’s Easy Listening and 2013’s Drift) saw them rapidly growing both as players and performers, whittling their sound down to a sharp edge over 100,000 kilometers worth of DIY shows across North America. By the time If Anything was being recorded over the autumn of 2013, Greys were less interested in paying homage to those who first inspired them than carving out their own identity.
The stargazing on the album’s opener quickly turns to shoegazing on its second cut, “Use Your Delusion,” as Jiwani’s wide-eyed adulation fades to ambivalence. The song’s supercharged stomp, courtesy of drummer Braeden Craig and bassist Colin Gillespie, has the singer shouting, “I wish I could be less cynical/I wish that I could relate/I wish someone would write a song about me for a change/And I wish I liked it.” Simply wanting to mimic their heroes isn’t enough, and the group meld grungy muscle with indie rock detachment and post-punk angularity to create something familiar yet unique. The song eschews hardcore downstroking in favour of tremolo bends and stop-start rhythms. Such details only make themselves apparent on repeated listens, however, as the first few spins leave the listener spinning from If Anything’s all-out aural assault.
Therein lies the rub for Greys; an avid respect for their punk forebears wrestling with the bratty audacity to move beyond those paradigms. While If Anything amply satisfies the primal urge one derives from the best punk rock, it also rewards multiple listens with textural curiosities, evoking more than just the noise rock staples with debts owed to Unwound, Polvo, The Swirlies and Sonic Youth. In short, it’s equal parts Jesus Lizard and Jesus And Mary Chain. This is crystallized in the band’s live show, earning them a reputation as a formidable act whose amplitude is matched only by its intensity.
Put simply: Greys are a loud rock band from Toronto.