Not a supergroup as much as a teaming of Bloomington’s flagbearers of intelligent post-punk pop music, Paul Mahern, David England and Scott Kellogg, along with drummer Alex Jarvis, have come together to form *ask. The band has released a two-song single+ just ahead of a New Year’s Eve gig at Radio Radio with four other bands, including Toxic Reasons.
Like Kellogg’s most recent effort, Silver in Their Veins (also produced by Mahern), the music on the single-plus-b-side favors the same “The Edge-style guitar razors and echo”. Mahern’s clean, minimalistic production polishes the eclectic, guitar-based pop, while letting the oddness shine. “Painted Hole” is the A-side, and builds a base upon a repeated and echoing guitar riff, before the song jumps into a melencholy power chord hook, with some pop sweetness in the chorus. Think a U2 b-side from the Joshua Tree album, with some Achtung Baby! glam.
With this release, it feels like *ask is a band that, if they desire, could produce some studio gems.
Mahern, also revered as the former frontman for Indianapolis’ legendary punk band The Zero Boys, is the compass of the band – the line that connects the dots. He previously teamed up with England on the latter’s 2009 excellent pop/rock album Little Death. Mahern produced, engineered, mixed, and added harmony vocals and percussion to that album. The two also worked together on England’s first solo record Almost True.
The second cut here, “Best Friends,” turns to a chunky punk buzz, adding a Clash attitude to the song’s sound. The cut swirls guitars around the vocals, and digs deeper into the U2 resemblence, with a flash of the Unforgettable Fire. That influence is the piece of the puzzle that grabs the listener’s ear, allowing the uniqueness of the band to follow.