Values - “Losses”
The first time I saw Values was at the (now closed, once great) Point Beach Clubhouse in Milford, Connecticut, opening for puke rock outfit My Ticket Home. It was both my first time at Point Beach and my first time catching Values, and as the saying goes, you don’t forget your first time. I’ll forever associate the band with that sweaty, sticky place, the connectivity between audience and performer. Essentially a converted shed, bands set up at the far end of the Clubhouse and let the mosh pit fill in the rest. Sometimes the two become indistinguishable, as it did that night Values played fresh off their debut album Violence. Blame frontman Mike Barbieri-May’s sheer presence: running, leaping, and contorting at every opportunity, putting a mic in his hands is like lighting a bag of gunpowder. He fulfills the arresting potential of his live performance on every track of long-awaited follow-up Losses, to say nothing of the way Brendan Baker, Corey Guyette, and Jordan Tammaro have stepped up their game.
Bluntly, Losses obliterates everything Values has ever done. Violence is a good record, but it’s just a springboard in hindsight. They may have made a name for themselves on that album’s mindless heaviosity, but Losses sees them writing it bigger, bolder, and with a greater sense of purpose - “Life” breaks the doors down and moves in with seasoned precision, cutting through hardcore riffage and gang vocals like the work of a much more experienced band. “Taguel” is a nasty reminder that “you’re fucking useless” to start off the new year, guaranteed to get bodies moving, and it leads straight into the minute-and-a-half firestorm of “Caged,” doubling as a showcase for Tammaro’s pounding work on the kit. In these seven minutes, Values launch themselves to the top of the Connecticut hardcore heap.
It’s hard to overstate that improvement. There’s a hunger on this record that was there on Violence, too, but Values seem to have been carrying a more serious chip on their shoulders than anyone realized. It’s driven them to explore, to experiment, and to reinvent themselves at every turn, exemplified by “Dead Shelter,” a track that ups the ante with some of the nimblest riffwork on the album courtesy of Baker. May flexes his upper register, sounding genuinely desperate as he begs, “Help me understand / I thought this was my own / It was all in my head!” Like all things in Values’s world, however, this moment of crisis subsumes to fury - “I won’t abide by your fucking rules / I’m done with you!” - and emerges as resolution: “Make a move / Let the past behind!”
This process is essential to Losses. We see it in the skin-stripping “Learn//Burn” and its chant-along refrain; soon-to-be pit-favorite “Without Ballast”; the career-high double-header of “Conspiracy” and “Sign of the Times”; and the blistering “824,” which altogether comprise the most furious section of the record. If there are words to learn before the release show on January 27, make them these from “Conspiracy”: “If you’re looking for a fight / Come out and knock on our doors!” Whether your mission is to scream them into the mic or to avoid the deadliest pit of the night, expect chaos, and then expect worse from “Sign of the Times,” when Fredy Abrahante of The Green Invaders steps in to lay waste to everything. “824” sees the return of May’s high screams as well as his newfound gutturals, which land like a sledgehammer over a concrete-smashing breakdown: “Let me be! Fucking let me be!” “Pulse” is no kind of reprieve, but it feels like one relative to what’s come before, with its dip into semi-clean vocals and a peek at Guyette’s churning basslines. Rest assured: there’s a mean groove waiting to suckerpunch you before a pick-slide bring Losses to a screeching close.
Every so often, the band’s Facebook updates would be tagged with a little reminder to “Embrace the losses.” On true opener “Life,” May confirms that “We are the lost.” The message that we’re a disenfranchised, disaffected, and disillusioned people stymied by the everyday frustrations chronicled in Violence, trapped in reactive cycles of betrayal, anger, corruption, and hopelessness, hits home in a variety of ways. We’re “lost” in these things, and we’re alone in our loss - but we are “losses,” too, to the structures that create these cycles. We are gears in a machine, but the more of us stop turning, the more of us are pushed out, the faster these mechanisms beget their own collapse.
Whether that reads too deeply into what Values have done here is beside the point. The story Violence told was a noisy and abrasive origin story, a band pulling themselves together, figuring themselves out: finding their voice and how to say what matters. Losses is a recalibration of that album’s sound and fury, a refinement of everything that made it worthwhile - not just a reaction to what worked and what didn’t, but a statement and masterful execution of intent.
Values were a force. Now they’re unstoppable.
-The Metal Lifestyle Team