Understanding one’s limitations and working to transcend them is a path to progress. Vancouver’s NEEDS are back with their sophomore album, Limitations, taking all of the concerns that come with a second offering and turning them into a hardcore blast of self-reflection.
On “We Forgot the Records to Our Record Release Show,” the first single from their debut LP, vocalist Sean Orr wrote, “What am I doing? / No seriously, what am I doing? / 36 years old / 37 in a couple of months / In a hardcore band / Although it’s probably more like punk.” Limitations continues that theme with tracks like “Rage Against The Miami Sound Machine,” which questions what difference we can make in the world. This theme of self-reflection, rare in punk and hardcore, is also doubled on the cover artwork, a mirror, chosen not only for its metaphor of introspection, self-awareness and identity, but also a representation of vanity, hubris and ego. This kind of duality figures large in Orr’s lyrics, which are equal parts personal, political and poetic, delivered in anywhere from a howling scream to a spoken word.
While there’s some introspection going on lyrically, it doesn’t come at the cost of unrelentingly furious performance. Recorded at Rain City Studios with Jesse Gander (Baptists, Japandroids, White Lung), the band wanted to showcase their diverse set of influences while maintaining their own singular sound. To that end, you can hear influences as disparate as Protomartyr and Metz; Pissed Jeans and Nation of Ulysses; even the Tragically Hip. Limitations takes inspiration from these and filters them through the band’s furious sound machine, resulting in a punishing yet coherent whole. It’s an album that moves from post-punk to angry guitar rock with ease without ever losing its own identity. Colin Spensley and Derek Adam’s raging, distorted guitars paired with bassist Glenn Alderson and drummer Devin O’Rourke’s driving rhythm section provides a solid foundation for Orr’s tortured vocals. While NEEDS may have initially wanted to call this album the Soft Boy Slump, it’s clear that progression not regression is what’s at work with their latest offering.
The idea of duality comes to play for the band in a live setting as well. Known for having eaten garbage directly out of trashcans, rooting through people’s bags, or shucking fresh oysters on stage, Orr transforms from the sensitive, introspective thinker of his lyrics to something else entirely. While the band behind him blasts out unrelenting and distorted sounds, Orr stalks the stage and crowd, putting his body on the line seeking anything that will provide an impact. It’s a manic experience you won’t soon forget.