Have you ever tried to put clothes on your dog before? My little mutt terrier1 doesn’t mind a dapper sweater when there’s a chill in the air. I did try and put a doggo onesie on her once though, and that didn’t go so well. What about a hat? No, definitely not a hat, not on my dog. How in the heck did they get a plague mask on this pupper for the cover here anyway? I know Chicago dogs are renowned, but I didn’t know that wearing masks was part of the specialty. I guess that probably doesn’t have much to do with Care, Will, Wants, the debut full-length from Chicago’s own These Beasts. So then why did I just waste a bunch of words talking about dogs?
These Beasts plays sludge of the stoner rock and noise rock-influenced variety—still nothing to do with dogs—right along the spectrum somewhere between the hypnotic pummel of early Melvins and the screeching chaos of The Jesus Lizard. However, rather than taking the extremes of either end and running boldly into new territory, the fairly singular tempo experience of Cares, Wills, Wants jogs about in a fashion similar to the slew of sludgy bands that popped about in the late 00s like Kylesa or Black Tusk, though, again, without the wild solos or tattered aggression. Todd Fabian does, at least, favor a tasty high-gain bass growl, and along with guitarist Chris Roos, These Beasts splatter mics with a dual vocal yowl and howl. Yet, despite these riot-promising ingredients in a genre mélange that begs for chaos, These Beasts carve a flat sonic landscape.
All too often These Beasts simply shifts from one hypnotic rhythm to the next, save for mid-album cuts “Pecking Order” and “Blind Eye”—even then the guitar solo in “Blind Eyes” occurs at a volume and tone that blends into the mid-soaked landscape that is Cares, Wills, Wants. Unlike the goal of NOLA sludge acts like Crowbar and Eyehategod, These Beasts aims to hypnotize rather than groove relying on the krautrock motorik to cast the lure. Usually, that kind of clacking drone needs a tether or guide to keep from losing its way, something like a bridge with an explosive guitar blaring or volume swell. Free of such attachments, lesser cut “Southpaw” manages to whiff a left hook despite a nimble kit solo, and “Trap Door,” a mid-paced closer, does not earn its seven-minute runtime. Though, in all reality, the four minutes or so that comprise each of the other songs doesn’t feel much different on the clock.
As it stands, These Beasts plays too smoothly through transitions to be exciting. After a fuzz-filled bass rumble opens the waltzing “Cocaine Footprints,” there’s an opportunity for Roo’s crackling guitar line to cut through with just a little more grit, but instead, he swings right on by in the same space occupied by tame tom strikes and hollow vocal refrains. Similarly, on “Nervous Fingers” bursting forth with a boomy snare and high-tone bass tremolo, the drawn-back vocal presence fails to make any entrance, sitting carefully tucked into the mix—a brief moment of abrasion comes about halfway through when a fried sneer jumps loud and center, but quickly These Beasts settles comfy too in that landscape. On higher aggression numbers “Code Name” and “Ten Dollars and Zero Effort” These Beasts makes it apparent that they’ve got the speaker-shaking threat of an early Kvelertak in them. But for a band that claims to dabble in noise rock expression, there’s little on Cares, Wills, Wants that has me worried in the way of harshness or intensity.
Much like the masked figure that adorns the black and gray canvas of the cover, Care, Wills, Wants feels caged and expressionless.2 I wouldn’t call These Beasts tired—there’s plenty happening in these tracks, but in an effort to not be cast aside this eight-pack of tunes has been calculated to nibble rather than bite. Earlier EPs suggest that scratchier and grittier tones do not exist far removed from this debut full-length. In fact, there’s a good chance that if you catch this sludge trio at bar that barely has stage enough to fit their stacks, These Beasts would embody the tones that they promise. Not here though. Maybe next time.