To its credit, ANTX has moved beyond the predictable pulse of surfy bass lines riding beneath warbling horror-movie organs. There are a few tracks here that transcend mere kitsch pleasure and ascend to the level of actual song craft, like the joyously raucous "Sheez Mine," which features a catchy hand-clapping chorus ("I love her!/She hates me!/I hate her!/She loves me!") and a pretty rad cock-rock guitar solo. Also fun is the robotic military parade of the single, "Take Me to Your Leader," which sounds like the marching song of a gang of cute robots trying to act scary, but actually looking like a bunch of cute robots.
Add N to (X) might punctuate its record with an entire catalog of canned screams and creepy howls, but the truly frightening music is on Different Damage, the new album from the postpunkers in Washington's Q and Not U. Expanding beyond its Fugazi and Jawbox influences, Q and Not U presents its vision for the future of aggressive indie-pop: sweet melodies, slash-and-jangle guitars, mathy drums, and jazzy song structures. The fear factor comes in the form of Chris Richards' words. His high, sweet voice, straining for melody, is forever on the edge of cracking. Out of his jigsaw of elliptical lyrics, Richards pieces together some rather disturbing images, such as: "I spent my holidays at the hospital/Visiting animals and people I know/Adjusting pillows," and "These ears as teeth between my legs/Who has the nerve to sing la la la?"
Different Damage builds in craziness, from the sugariness of the intro, "Soft Pyramids," through a literal trip to the loony bin in "So Many Animal Calls" and the first climax, on the fourth track, "Black Plastic Bag," which revisits Q and Not U's trademark melodic hardcore sound. After the sixth song, "This Are Flashes," which features a deranged chorus of violent la-la-las, the album settles down somewhat, which is good, because you'll want to catch your breath and start over again. Like those deathtrap carnival rides you would have to be a lunatic to get on but you get on anyway, this one gets better with every spin.