Lync
These Are Not Fall Colors
(K)

The context: 1994 put a lot of indie-rockers on the fence: Was it cool to sex up and laminate your sound in hopes of netting one of the thousands of major-label deals floating around in Nirvana's wake? Or would it be nobler to follow outspoken indie pundits like Steve Albini and Fugazi, and stick to a raw, DIY methodology? More than an economic decision, it was an aesthetic one—and it wasn't just an academic debate. After all, if an abrasively bizarre band like Shudder To Think could get signed to a major, anyone could.

It's total conjecture to assume that Lync was weighed down by such concerns while making 1994's These Are Not Fall Colors. The Olympia, Washington trio's lone full-length (not counting the posthumous singles collection Remembering The Fireballs [Part 8] from 1997), Fall Colors bears the hallmarks of many its nouveau-riche contemporaries: muddy guitars, discordance masquerading as melody, lyrics that—when discernable at all—made little obvious sense. But one idea shone clear and bright throughout the album: Lync's music was way too coarse, unhinged, and structurally adventurous to ever appeal to the mainstream. The group's anti-commercial slant is ironic in retrospect, considering that just before recording Fall Colors, singer-guitarist Sam Jayne and bassist James Bertram backed up Beck on his early folk album One Foot In The Grave—and Lync's friends and sometime collaborators in Built To Spill and Modest Mouse borrowed liberally from Fall Colors on their way to acclaim and fat checks.

The greatness: Fall Colors' scope and sprawl is almost staggering, especially coming from a band of such ostensible slackers. Cemented together with ragged, ambient loops of spoken-word samples and guitar feedback, the album's 10 tracks swell and collapse in spasms of alternating beauty, confusion, joy, and skull-scraping noise. The opener "B" starts out with an arpeggio off-kilter enough to make Sonic Youth or Unwound proud, then busts into one of Jayne's garbled couplets about bubble baths and killing one's cereal. The album's formula of jangling discord, hooks, and screams reveals itself in the chorus, a pissed, bleary-eyed passage that sounds like a sloppy fistfight between three stoned paranoiacs at 4 a.m.

From there, the disc just gets prettier and crazier: "Perfect Shot" is the type of sing-along that could leave people coughing up blood, while "Silverspoon Glasses" manages to sound frantic and lazy at the same time. "Clay Fighter" and "Cue Cards" are back-to-back anthems covered in scabs and haunted by a vague yet aching specter of loss. The album's second half is dominated by "Angelfood Fodder And Vitamins," whose noodly, delicate intro would trickle down to a million emo bands, and the closer "Uberrima Fides," a near-seven-minute sprawl of loosely spooled riffs and corrosive chants ending in an epic guitar expedition. It's clear that Lync also took a lot of inspiration from Drive Like Jehu and the early '90s Dischord Records roster, but where those groups strove to be mechanistically tight, Lync was messily human. Jayne carried this quality to his next project, Sub Pop signee Love As Laughter, which has had its share of high points, though it's never approached the humble hugeness of Fall Colors.

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Defining song: With its indelible, desperate refrain of "Where has it gone?", "Pennies To Save" is one of the most instantly catchy tracks. But it also packs the most depth: Under layers of chugging bass, feedback, static, and dainty guitar flourishes lies a complex song that twists from fist-pumping to heart-clenching as it laments a thwarted, misplaced, co-opted innocence. While many of Lync's K Records contemporaries like Beat Happening and Tiger Trap tried to recapture childhood by playing childlike music, Jayne and crew looked back on youth through a grimy, spiderwebbed lens.