The Company We Keep’s debut release, Making Moves, also serves to launch a series of six 7”s (from six different artists) under the same name to be issued as part of a collaboration between Drexel University’s Mad Dragon Records and the band Motion City Soundtrack. But while TCWK features MCS majordomo Justin Pierre on guitar, Making Moves finds him taking a backseat to the twin creative engines of multi-instrumentalist Brian Southall (Boys’ Night Out, The Receiving End Of Sirens) and newcomer, vocalist Amy Brennan. The Company We Keep began as Southall’s project, and the dense electronic programming on Making Moves bears his footprints.
Lead track “The Company She Keeps” is easily the poppiest of the three, with a massive chorus and a vocal hook bolstered by brightly chirping synths that positively detonate the gloomy atmosphere of the surrounding verses. Meanwhile, “Pattern Against User” tacks in nearly the exact opposite direction, reimagining At The Drive-In as a punked-out female fronted Stabbing Westward, with heavily processed vocals layered over a background that sounds compressed to the redline, chaotic and claustrophobic.
“Right/Wrong” owes as much to the schlocky nu-goth of Evanescence as it does to contemporaries VersaEmerge. Fortunately, Brennan’s vocals are a little more punk and a little less vampy than Amy Lee’s; there’s a bit of bite, a measured thinness and fine-grit sandpaper edge to her tone (more warning signal than siren call). It would be nice to hear her cut loose a bit more, but even as is, her edge leads the track’s lithe verses through a dense fabric of paranoid electronics, like a needle trailing thread.
Making Moves feels like a band still in the process of figuring out what they are. Although the first two Garbage albums are obvious touchstones (particularly the singles “Vow” and “Push It”), musically The Company We Keep might have more in common with more industrial-leaning bands of that period, such as Gravity Kills, Filter and even Broken/The Downward Spiral-era Nine Inch Nails. The basic pieces — tetchy digital skitters, glum atmosphere, synths pushed to the forefront — seem to be in place, but the band doesn’t seem to have quite settled on how to configure them yet. As a result, the three tracks on Making Moves feel a little disjointed in aggregate, though each track is uncommonly good and offers an intriguingly different approach. Whether the band settles on industrial grind, doomy darkwave, brighter synthpop or some combination of the three, with debut songs this good, it will be hard not to expect big things going forward.