December 2, 2015 | by Bryne Yancey

Just writing and recording a longer-than-usual song doesn’t automatically equate to something worth remembering.

In fact, it’s generally the opposite, especially in punk. As talented and proficient as a large swath of punk musicians are these days—perhaps more than ever, really—quite a lot of them couldn’t keep a song interesting past the three or four minute mark. Many simply don’t try, either as an aesthetic choice or because they may recognize their own limitations or because really, less is usually more.

But occasionally, more is more. Fucked Up, who will make an appearance in this feature later this month, could write—and on occasion they have—two-minute banger after two-minute banger, but their M.O. is, in addition to being highly conceptual at nearly every turn, writing songs with different movements and feelings and sounds that push the boundaries of what hardcore music can be. Their long songs always feel long, but they never feel self-indulgent; there’s shit happening, whether it’s a pulverizing, repetitive guitar riff, visceral, guttural yelling or something more unconventional, from chimes to bells to beautiful backup vocals. Their shit demands your attention as a listener, regardless of length.

I came to Shinobu through Hard Girls. For most people, it’s the opposite; Shinobu are the longer-running, more prolific band, but Hard Girls’ 2014 LP A Thousand Surfaces was so otherworldly, so refreshingly different, so unlike anything else surrounding it, and a lot of that had to do with Mike Huguenor’s guitar work. Few guitarists in this scene have the chops to so quickly alternate between huge melodies and straight-up riffs the way he does. It’s hard to describe but once you hear it, you wonder why every band doesn’t write guitar parts like that. Perhaps it’s because so few of them can or, again, they see less as more.

Shinobu’s 2015 LP 10 Thermidor is such a wonderful showcase for Huguenor’s unique talents, not just as a virtuoso guitarist but as an underrated vocalist and songwriter. His voice is raw, but there’s an unquantifiable, almost relaxed softness to it that’s really appealing and reassuring, and he can write vocal melodies as well as anyone. “The Void” is track 3 on 10 Thermidor but it has the look and feel of an album centerpiece, with three distinct movements: A mid-tempo build with distinct soloing and fuzzy rhythms; a quiet midsection, a void if you will, filled with distant plucking and plenty of empty space; and a loud, boisterous end replete with “HEY HEY HEY!” gang vocals and more of that established solo. It’s a pretty breezy 6:33.

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