Does the sound define the artist, or does the artist define the sound? For Josh Scogin and Nikko Yamada, the answer seems to be a paradox. In a nearly chemical reaction, the wild Atlanta duo ignites an explosion in their music, and, like any madman’s ploy, the blast takes on a life of its own.
It’s been only six months since ’68 released their last work – the EP Love Is Ain’t Dead – but the quick turnaround has brought the band back into the limelight with a full-length follow-up, Give One Take One. Like water boiling over, the band’s signature fuzzy tones, grinding force, Delta blues-soaked grunge riffs, and gritty vocals swell to new heights on their latest release.
Each song on Give One Take One unleashes a different experience, but the core elements that carry through the entire record wrap the assorted pieces in a cohesive, fantastical package: scrappy guitar, tasteful keys, animated drums. From the raw and bluesy introduction (“The Knife, The Knife, The Knife”) to the moody and dramatic resolution (“The Storm, The Storm, The Storm”), there is never a shortage of groove to paradoxically carry you deeper into the spiraling chaos.
Each song on Give One Take One unleashes a different experience, but the core elements wrap the pieces in a cohesive, fantastical package.
In the spirit of this duality, Scogin’s vocals are as unhinged yet controlled as ever, perfectly chaotic, not a bit off-key, dripping with calculated insanity. From lackadaisical and utterly cool to manic and charged with electricity, every note, sung or shouted, is done with intent and deliberation. The mysterious range of his capabilities starts with a wild howl and sleazy drag at the beginning of the record; the mystery unfolds with each lyric as the record progresses, from his emotional melodies on “Life and Debt” to his angsty hardcore roots on the slow coda of “Lovers in Death.”
Answering the call to Scogin’s crazed songwriting and performance, the groovy variety Yamada charges through each track speaks to his uncanny skills to not only perform anything put in front of him but to internalize the attitude of each hit and blast it back tenfold. We marvel at his speed on “Bad Bite” to his consistency on “Nickels and Diamonds,” responding vigorously to the call of Scogin’s surf rock guitar. Then, on “The Silence, The Silence, The Silence,” his jazz chops make an appearance, followed by the embodied swing in “What You Starve” and “Nervous Passenger.” All the while, Yamada stays tight and in motion with both tempo and feel despite the world burning around him.
There’s an unmatched amount of sludge and dirt that only works when a band has strong ideas and a rock-solid identity. Fortunately for ’68, that identity is rooted so deeply and deliberately in the unhinged unknown. Stellar songwriting among entropy, you tell me: Does their sound define them, or do they define their sound? It may still be early enough in their journey to be clear enough to tell. All that’s certain is still that ’68 is blowing down the highway at full speed on Give One Take One and blissfully forfeiting control of the wheel.