An initial listen to Membership’s demo tape, “Everybody Wants To Be An Artist Nowadays,” is likely to leave the listener thinking they’ve just heard a mid-90s Midwestern-emo band. And the truth is, whether its intentional or not, that particular vibe is exactly what Membership emanates. The strangest factor in the entire equation then is not what the band sounds like, but rather where it comes from: not the Midwest, but Berlin.
Made up of members Tobi (guitar), Lars (bass) and Nico (drums), the three-piece band has only been in existence since last year. And the three-song demo, which delivers a sound full of emphatic post-hardcore tendencies and clocks in at just under nine minutes, was released in April of this year, shortly before the band played a string of three shows – the only ones thus far in its short tenure.
While the music admittedly errs on the edge of raucously muted, for an album recorded in a practice space, it’s pretty much what might be expected. Yet it still manages to overcome the confines of a room that likely doesn’t cater to acoustics.
The opening track, “The Eyes, The Ears,” begins with aggressive certainty, boasting a driving guitar riff, followed by a forceful bassline, unapologetic drums and the entrance of somewhat tentative vocals. No one can say the latter are lackluster though, and arguably, the confidence of the song eventually imbues the singing to step up – which it does – about one-third of the way through, making its way through a vehement breakdown and settling on a satisfyingly-abrupt ending.
Next up is the shortest song on the tape, “Thoughts on Billy Pilgrim,” which is a blatant nod to writer Kurt Vonnegut. With lyrics taken straight from the pages of “Slaughterhouse Five,” including but not limited to the famous Yon Yonson nursery rhyme, as well as the oft-tattooed “everything was beautiful and nothing hurt” line, the song begs of anyone nearby to join in and sing along, but ultimately ends too quickly – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It simply leaves its listeners wanting more.
The third and final track, “Big Kid Tested, Motherfucker Approved,” lacks the tightness and direction the previous two tracks possess, with vocals that somehow miss the mark and a song structure that builds up but then dissolves into nothing. It’s not that it’s a bad song, but more than anything, it falls short right when it begins to get interesting. Where succinctness is the strength of the first two tracks, it doesn’t work in the favour of this song, which hits its peak seconds short of the end.
Yet packaged together, these three songs are as effective as a hard-hitting slug in the gut. And when it comes down to it, the sheer intensity of the music makes up for any shortcomings its lo-fi production might hint at.
So the verdict is this: Membership isn’t just a throwback band; it’s a trio of super legit, down-ass dudes. And whatever comes next from these three is almost guaranteed to be good.