Released on Friday, April 23, via Airbag Records, High Functioning’s eponymous debut EP is a white-hot thrasher. It’s fast-paced punk at its finest, compact but more than enough to tide you over. The production value here is through the roof—it was recorded at Toe Rag Studios in Hackney by Grammy-winner Liam Watson, who famously worked on The White Stripes’ Elephant.
High Functioning have revealed their favourite artists are Roky Erickson, The Stooges, and Black Sabbath—influences that are apparent throughout the three tracks on this debut EP. They describe their writing process as “involuntary, unplanned, insensible, [and] adaptive,” so how does the final product sound at the band’s recommended volume of “LOUD”?
The eponymously titled first track is a gritty spell that commands the listener’s attention. The passionate frustration weaved into the lyrics makes a good summary for the band and is complemented by the punchy guitar, bass, and drums. It’s challenging to make a definitive punk record without drawing all sorts of comparisons. However, High Functioning succeed at putting forward a fresh new sound that is entirely their own with this opener.
‘Sick and Tired’ follows, maintaining a balance of aggressive vocals and a pummelling melody that becomes an instrumental at the halfway mark of the song. The emphasis here is critical as it allows you to appreciate the seldom remembered and yet ambitious instrumentals without too much of a distraction. It also presents High Functioning as being incredibly cohesive, with an often-sought-after technical ability.
The final track, ‘Brain In A Bag,’ is by far the longest, coming in at seven minutes and five seconds. It begins languid, with a darkness falling over the theme of abrasion that’s been preserved so far. This slowly builds up, finally settling firmly into the “blast in your face” territory like its predecessors. Vocals once again taking a backseat less than midway through the song to make way for the lightning-fast drums and the sonic onslaught of the guitar. This is undoubtedly where High Functioning’s top talent lies, a face-melting offensive of an experience that truly sells itself.
As far as debuts go, you can’t get much more solid than this. The choice to offer up only three songs may not have been the intention for this reason, but it means that every track is masterfully done, and there is no filler as far as the eye can see (or ear can hear). The band as a collective may be cutting their teeth here, but there’s a precision to these tracks that showcases prowess.