Considering the band’s youth, it’s impressive that Muuy Biien’s new album is such well-executed departure from previous material. Though the band has made a habit of mining post-punk history while remaining a forward-thinking punk ensemble, Age of Uncertainty is the first record to feel equally unified and exploratory. The 12-track album retains all the abrasive madness of 2014’s D.Y.I. but replaces its manic energy with haunting echoes and skeletal instrumentation. The somber tones are as appropriate for fist-pumping as moshing at a wake, but beneath the funereal sentiments lie the same vibrant perfectionism that have animated Muuy Biien since bandleader Josh Evans’ first demos.
The album opens with the drunken swagger of “Moral Compass,” a plodding piece that sets the tempo for the record with bluesy vocals and clattering piano. By the second and third tracks it’s apparent that Age of Uncertainty is better suited for a forgotten saloon that CBGB. Despite the noir setting and dystopian lyrics, the record avoids parodying any specific influence in favor of cherry-picking a mix of post-punk and rock and roll royalty. The dissonant sax which appears throughout the record recalls early Pere Ubu, while echoes of Tom Waits and Nick Cave nod in approval to the crushing intensity of each track. Though the impassioned anger of earlier releases isn’t as obvious here, the band’s vehemence bleeds through each track, infecting and corrupting the listener.
The shift in sound and tone is notable, but it’s to be expected from a band that has never seemed too eager to subscribe to any limiters. Age of Uncertainty isn’t a monumental change, but it is a clear line of demarcation between the past and the future of Muuy Biien. However, each time a punk band expands their sound beyond breakneck riffs and caustic lyrics there seems to be a knee-jerk reaction to label the new material more “mature” than previous albums. Though occasionally accurate, it’s often lazy shorthand to avoid any concrete assessment of new material. It’s a curse that has beset the Men, Iceage, and Redd Kross, among others. However, to make that claim for Age of Uncertainty would be to miss the obvious point that 2014’s D.Y.I. held all the hallmarks of mature record, in that there was no glaring way the LP could have been improved. It was in its own way a complete statement, a finished product, and evidence there would be no D.Y.I. part 2 in any form. As such, Muuy Biien’s latest work is proof they’re willing to push themselves beyond the realm of proven success. This is a tall order for any band, and a shift more difficult to quantify than simply placing an album on the scales between youth and maturity.
In any case, Age of Uncertainty is reflective of the notion that Muuy Biien make music for themselves wherever they are in life. The group has always had an experimental, even ambient bent. In that sense, it’s unsurprising that the band wholly committed to the western deathrock motif, even while subverting it. Whether or not it seems like a natural progression for the group is inconsequential. It’s entirely possible Muuy Biien’s next record will be a return to fierce, visceral two-minute tracks, but don’t count it. When it comes to limiting themselves to a nebulous punk checklist or doing whatever the hell they want, Age of Uncertainty proves it’s an easy decision for the band to make.