HOW THE HELL DID a library card become as essential an accessory to Seattle rock as groin- collapsing denim? Bloodhag's gauntlet-hurling hardcore is really a thinly veiled excuse to lionize their sci-fi novelist heroes; the Blood Brothers saturate the screamo stencil with jarring hypersexual metaphors via demented recurring characters. Now the Eastside kids of post-punk quintet Gatsby's American Dream are putting their own "club" in book club, loosely basing sophomore LP Ribbons and Sugar (Rocketstar) on George Orwell's classic satire Animal Farm. (Caveat: Note incorporation of adverb "loosely.")
"Somewhere along the line, people started calling this record a concept record," says vocalist Nic Newsham, taking time out from Seventh Heaven at his parents' home in Redmond. "We never really sat down and decided. . . . [It's] not a concept album, although there are definitely parallels with the book."
These dudes ain't exactly out to wedgie Tom Morello until he squeals, "Marx was grotesquely naive and . . . and . . . I eat poop!" There may not be a cohesive Orwell-inspired narrative theme to Ribbons, but "Recondition, Reprogram, Reactivate" and "Snicker at the Swine" address the malleable nature of humanity. Gatsby's lyrical oeuvre can be neatly summarized via staccato rocker "Work Lies Sex Love Fear Hate Friendship," whose title appears to be loosely (ahem . . . ) derived from Vanilla Sky's tag line.
As to the vessel, Ribbons is an ambitious tangle, in which Bobby Darling and Ryan Van Wieringen's mathy guitar strands eat each other alive beneath Newsham's lift-you-up-on-eagle's-wings vocals. The record wears emo-core only as a Halloween mask, bleeding all over itself, pulsing with exuberance, never degenerating into lovelorn whine time.
"When we started out, we were like, 'OK, we're not writing songs about girls.'" Newsham laughs. "That's become bullshit. It's been kind of a big goal to incite conversation and get people thinking. I realize that's pretty cliché, but it's better than some of the other clichés."
"I see [a full-blown concept album] happening when we're doing the band without jobs," Newsham says. "Right now, it's like coming home from work, getting up at night, and being, like, 'I can't sleep. I have lyrics to write down.' I'm not gonna call (a bandmate) in the middle of the night and go, 'Hey, what do you think about this?' We're not going to half-ass it."
Gatsby's American Dream play the VERA Project with Rocky Votolato and the Pale at 8 p.m. Fri., Dec. 12. $7 with club card/$8.