It’s been three years since SEX BBQ showed their penchant for boisterous rock and roll with their debut single “Locus of Control.” Now they are back with their first album, Sex Noir City, and are picking up right where they left off.
Although singer/guitarist Kate Jan and guitarist Steve LaBate initially wanted to form a surf punk band in the vein of former Atlanta stalwarts Ghost Bikini, their talents soon pushed them beyond such a limiting genre. While the surf punk elements are still audible on the album, they are covered with layer after layer of bold instrumental choices. In the world of SEX BBQ, creepy psychedelia meets galloping spaghetti western beats, pulling the listener into a world where the sun set long ago.
Sex Noir City feels like an amalgam of the grime and glory of every great American city all rolled into one theatrical joyride. In their bio, multi-instrumentalist Steve Albertson notes: “This record celebrates the intricacies of city night life. Seedy clubs, ecstatic dancing, spontaneous conversation, emotional turmoil, drunken camaraderie, drugs, jealousy, betrayal and, above all else, music.” Jan corrals all of these topics and spits out her sordid stories with all the speed and ferocity of Kathleen Hanna as she takes the listener on a breakneck tour of the darkest streets and alleyways.
Indeed, the theatrical flair of the record allows a great degree of lyrical and musical freedom for the band. In each track, the group acts as sonic set designers, masterfully crafting the perfect locations where their songs can immerse the listener in another world. On “Future Simon,” the plodding beat is matched with a twisted organ and chanted lyrics, creating the impression of a haunted carnival. The genius of SEX BBQ, however, is their ability to switch gears so fast. The sea-shanty punk on “Powerlines Pt. 1” is balanced with the horror ballad “Wake Up,” complete with creaking doors and pounding footsteps. Meanwhile, “Derailed” relies solely on catchy hooks and shouted verses, but its simplicity and energy makes it a stand-out track among the more eclectic songs on the album.
The wide variety on Sex Noir City and the band’s tendency to focus on a theme for just one song sometimes make it seem like SEX BBQ is trying to do too much. There are times when it feels as if the group would’ve been better off splitting the music into multiple albums. However, the endless creativity and the reckless pace are part of the identity they have been crafting through three years of raucous live performances. Ultimately, Sex Noir City is a beautiful, depraved roller coaster of rock and roll that proves SEX BBQ has the talent and ambition to craft unique stories rather than just static snapshots.