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Arizona punks shape-shift into a desert rock Destruction Unit

In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well—some inspired by a weekly theme and some not, but always songs worth hearing.

Singer-guitarist Ryan Rousseau originally founded Destruction Unit to take a sonic detour from his main gig in The Reatards; Destruction Unit’s first records, released in 2000, bear the hair-trigger hallmarks of the Reatard releases of the day. They’re bratty, blown out, cast-off punk songs, flimsy in their production but weighty in their speed-addled origins.


It wasn’t until Rousseau began splitting time between Memphis and his home state of Arizona that the project began to slowly pull away from its garage punk roots. Drawing on both the scorched-Earth isolation and the bleary psychedelic nature of his Arizona surroundings, the band’s last few releases have gradually stretched the songs longer and allowed Rousseau’s anxiety room to breathe.

The group’s latest record, Deep Trip, isn’t so much a shift in mindset as in magnitude. Recording in a proper studio for the first time, the assembled Destruction Unit crew is afforded a dynamic range absent from previous recordings, even when it doesn’t stretch the tracks to marathon length. One of those shorter cuts, “Slow Death Sounds” is perhaps the greatest beneficiary of those new dynamics. Coming out punching after the cannabis sigh of the album opener, “The World On Drugs,” “Slow Death Sounds” is all feedback bombs and floor-tom rattle, with due attention paid to Rusty Rousseau’s railroad bass lines and Ryan Rousseau’s practiced bark. Though it’s in and out in a flash, it condenses just about everything Destruction Unit does well into its minuscule grasp.


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