Cruising are an Irish indie-supergroup formed from members of Girls Names, September Girls, Sea Pinks, and Logikparty. They take their name from a controversial Al Pacino exploitation-thriller set in New York City’s underground gay scene, which they duly pay tribute to in their album art: a leather jacket with “CRUISING” studded across it in a perfect display of tackiness. Cruising are branded as “Post-Punk”, and as any literary theorist will tell you, “post-” anything can mean a hell of a lot of things. Cruising makes the most of this by offering quite a bit of sonic variety over their six-track, self-titled debut EP.
The Spectacle, the opening track on ‘Cruising’, acts as something of an introductory piece, bringing in each member of the four-piece over the first minute. Beginning with just a drumbeat and a bass riff, the track builds with a complementary melody from the lead guitar, and finally Benni Johnston on vocals, dragging out “These four waaaalllls…” with an old-school punk swagger. It’s at this point that the whole group burst into full gear, thrashing cymbals and shredding chords with a distinctly punk attitude of “can you hear us yet?”
The volume should be of no surprise to anyone who’s heard Cruising’s one release prior to the EP, a distortion-heavy ear-splitter called You Made Me Do That. The original track, unceremoniously dropped onto Youtube accompanied by a clip of Al Pacino’s hypnotic dancing, is shrouded in the heavy buzz of lo-fi recording equipment, giving it a frantic and somewhat frightening energy and intensity. You Made Me Do That appears again on the EP, this time re-recorded with a much cleaner and far less abrasive sound. There are some benefits to this clean-up – not least among them that you can actually make out the words that Benni Johnston is singing – but the end result feels a little bit sterilised and impotent by comparison, in spite of being one of the harsher tracks on the EP.
Those two tracks, followed by the equally rip-roaring Safe Corridor, compose a relatively consistent tone for the first half. Things start getting a bit weirder with Lifting, which drops the tempo down considerably for the least “punk-ish” track on the EP. This spacey, somewhat psychedelic tune rests on a simplistic lead guitar line, plucked away at a metronomic pace. Johnston’s vocals here seem reminiscent of Grace Slick’s: airy and striking at the same time.
Altogether the lyrics are pretty minimalist, reading like abstract poetry: “You think you’re so clever and smart/ Now I am the husband and I am the wife” and similar lyrics manage to be striking enough in their own way, if you manage to catch them amidst the cacophony of the other instruments. The main exception to this rule is Woman, the one song on the EP with an obvious political angle, clearly emerging from the marriage equality referendum. The song delivers a message about self-acceptance of sexuality in spite of “those fuckers with their bigger vision”. Paired with surprisingly chirpy instrumentals, it’s also the wordiest track on the album to its discredit, the opaque political message losing a certain punch for lack of brevity.
Closing track Cutlass returns to that lyrical ambiguity for its ominous first minute-and-a-half before moving into explicitly violent imagery as the tempo picks up. A reverberating guitar echo is the final sound on this ambitious first effort from this burgeoning collaboration, and the silence that follows is deafening after such high octane, divergent tracks. While not without its stumbles, Cruising’s first EP shows a lot of promise for the punk collective.