Hidden Agenda: Work Is Gruesome

Jon Kortland is one half of Iron Lung, the long-running hardcore duo known for conjuring greater intensity than bands with twice the members, but that's not his only ongoing collaboration. Kortland and Nic Schmidt create visual art as Feeding, an entity responsible for cover art on records by Iron Lung, Pig Heart Transplant, Walls, and others. Feeding graphics typically combine stark illustrations with concise shots of grim humor. They often depict people, but rarely faces, opting instead for cropped close-ups of mangled hands in the middle of technical activities, like archaic surgery or cassette-tape assembly. The cover of last year's Iron Lung album, White Glove Test, shows a hand lodged inside of a skull that teems with shards and shrapnel.

Invasion of a featureless body part fits Feeding's theme of corporeal violation, which at times suggests a commentary on privacy and identity in the digital age. But the work of Kortland and Schmidt mostly resists interpretation. As the flier for Feeding's art show opening at Econo Jam Records declares, "If you do not like it, we do not care," which implies an indifference to viewers' personal understanding of the work as well. If stark, black-and-white illustrations of grotesque subject matter and imposing typefaces do arouse your aesthetic taste, the exhibit opens on Friday, June 6.

On the Iron Lung tip, the record label of the same name recently released the second EP from New York punk band Warthog, which is set to perform on Saturday, June 7, at 1-2-3-4 Go! Records and Wednesday, June 11, at El Rio. The artwork adorning the Prison EP isn't a far cry from the imagery of Feeding, either. Similarly severe renderings of viscera and menacing lettering introduce three fittingly brutish, straight-ahead tracks. The riffs are surprisingly tuneful, with little runs and thoughtful strumming patterns that meet with pummeling drums to form assaultive blows of sound. The musical firmness is a nice counterpoint to the vocals, which indulge in the sort of feral snarl that typically accompanies more shambolic punk bands. For further wrenching of the formula, clean guitar solos uncoil atop a couple of the tracks. It's more like Warthog is inspired by the competent rock cud of acts like Motörhead than other, borderline inept punks. Notably, the unfortunate departure of The Men's savagery after the Brooklyn rock band's 2011 debut album, Leave Home, could be chalked up to Ben Greenberg's replacement of Chris Hansell, who now fronts Warthog.

With power-pop songsmith and former Nerves drummer Paul Collins coming to perform at Hemlock Tavern on Wednesday, June 11, it brings to mind local act Cocktails. Adult Life, Cocktails breezy debut album, is slated for release this month. Thematically, both deal the sort of quaint romanticism common in power-pop, but Adult Life also considers the quotidian disappointments and reliefs of nine-to-fivers, just like early Collins tracks such as "Work-a-Day World." They argue that the splendor of playing rock gigs is worth weekday drudgery. Considering the decades between Collins and Cocktails' debuts, power-pop devotees seem thoroughly persuaded.

 
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