Surgery Channel, the second album by The C.I.A. (made up of spouses Ty and Denée Segall) has delivered unto the world the haunting garage punk sound of the future. With classic punk and hardcore sensibilities mixed into a wash of electronic and sampled sounds, Surgery Channel is a new angle on the punk genre that never compromises on its dark, jarring, overbearing roots.
With a relatively short run of only 32 minutes, Surgery Channel sprints along at breakneck speed for (nearly) its entirety. Frantic, yet mechanical percussion dominates most tracks, and yet doesn’t overwhelm Ty’s blown-out guitar lines or Denée’s energetic, versatile vocals.
After an unsettling intro reminiscent of a bad trip in a dentist’s chair, the album jumps straight in with “Better,” a track which is aptly named as it’s better than almost anything else it precedes on the album. Gravelly, booming electronic bass looms over heavy kick drums and something akin to a death rattle on the electric guitar. Denée’s vocals shine here—intense, dark, plotting a gruesome vengeance, and yet completely relaxed, somehow making the whole affair even more unsettling.
To its credit, the album has no shortage of energy or intention. However, some tracks seem to lack the imagination that others so deftly demonstrate. “Inhale Exhale” is missing the experimental textures of electronica that help the others shine, instead relying heavily on an irritatingly repetitive guitar riff and combative vocals that sound like you’re mashing the A button in a Street Fighter game. With that said, it’s not a bad song by any means—those who love punk for its inherent youthful energy and juvenile tendencies might love it for all the reasons I don’t.
In general, Surgery Channel is split into songs that push the envelope of convention, like the imposing “Bubble,” the unexpected “Under,” and the fascinating spoken word experiment “Construct,” and songs that are more loud and fun, like “Impersonator” and “The Wait.”
Surgery Channel is sprawling. Maximalist. Unrefined. You might not enjoy every song, but there’s a distinct sense that The C.I.A. doesn’t care. And what could be more punk than that?