Fuzz rockers Weekend inhabit something of a musical wasteland. Their instrumentals borrow heavily from punk’s raw carelessness, yet their music is devoid of the angry punk spirit. It surges steadily forward like shoegaze, yet doesn’t embrace any gentle, hazy dreaminess. It lacks the dreamy pop sheen of M83, the terrifying imagination of A Place to Bury Strangers, the electronic quirks of Maps or School of Seven Bells. It is without hooks, without pleasure, without gimmick—but this unabashed absence is where it succeeds.
In a time when many shoegaze artists are working to expand the genre through layers of production and woozy synthesizers, Weekend’s debut LP “Sports” feels like a back-to-basics, anti-technology shoegaze revival in the vein of classic punk—while the album pushes through thick layers of sound, it remains starkly, surprisingly gritty in its crude instrumental palette.
This gritty restyling is—especially in contrast to many of their contemporaries—enough to make the rough-hewn album bitterly satisfying. But Weekend does more than just stubbornly defy modern styles—out of their reactionary sound also comes an inevitable tone of loss, helplessness, and dreary disaffection.
“Sports” isn’t a fun listen—what Weekend has created is a decidedly crude, flat, lo-fi styling of shoegaze dreaminess, drawing a flow of vague, contemplative tracks out of an abrasive, strikingly limited instrumental base. It’s simplistically produced, repetitive, lacking in harmony, and altogether not easy on the ears, but the album’s value is not in how harmonious it may be—rather, “Sports” proves harsh, but gratifying precisely in how stubbornly it defies a modern feel.
“Coma Summer” opens the album with a simple, hollow, 4/4 time drumbeat, rolling steadily into tuneless, distorted guitar scrapes pulsing along with the beat. This, and this alone, is the small, crude core of lo-fi instrumentals from which “Sports” takes its entire sound—jackhammer shivers of distorted guitar, thick bass notes, clattering garage-rock drums. These dirty, simple instruments tumble together, separate, rejoin and push forth in seemingly endless combinations, crafting a coarse vision around the relentless tempos that drive almost every track.
Despite the stripped-down instrumentation and lack of production (often emblematic of punk) the songs shuffle steadily with none of punk’s fire and catchiness. Rather, their fluid, meandering structures feel like closer kin to shoegaze and psychedelia. Shaun Durkan’s vocals edge nearer to the modern context—at times, he sings in the open, sweet wail reminiscent of Best Coast or Grizzly Bear; at others, the bratty groans of the Jesus and Mary Chain. The juxtaposition is fresh, and ultimately satisfying—it’s the unreal, pulsating flow of shoegaze, but wrapped in coarse, changeless grit.
The flat, relentless simplicity that drives this style would be a fatal flaw for most artists, but here it becomes Weekend’s greatest weapon in their bitterly refreshing repudiation of the electro-shoegaze artists of today. Weekend push forth in their dull, churning sound with such dogged consistency—even in solemner, freer-form tracks like “Monday Morning” and “Afterimage,” both of which seem synthesizer-ready—that it feels as if the band is pointedly, consciously pounding out its distance from modern electro-shoegaze as defiantly as it can. And it works—their back-to-basics monotony almost completely lacks vigor, yes, but it’s wholly gratifying in its stubborn standoffishness.
Yet their style also serves to push them beyond simple reactionary sentiment. It’s that gritty, constrained repetition that also helps consolidate their dreary artistic vision, a bleak and disaffected portrait whose creative integrity stands alone from the musical context of its era.
Durkan’s subject matter often swirls around the darker side of nostalgia—loss, wistfulness, helplessness, the indefatigable passage of time. Shaping the album’s sense of dreary endlessness, he’s taken with relentless, repeated wails that slowly drown in the instrumentals: “I don’t want to be alone” on “Monday Morning”; “I don’t want to go home” on “Monongah, WV”; “I’ll wait for you” on “Landscape.”
The rough-hewn style fleshes these themes out perfectly—in unwavering adherence to such a limited, scrappy instrumental range, Weekend have unraveled tracks that themselves feel constrained, repressed, beaten. The driving, ceaseless pulses in “Coma Summer,” “Monongah, WV,” “Age Class,” and most other tracks further lend the pieces a sense of heartless inevitability, with each song surging along into sudden inconclusive endings; together, “Sports” is a remarkably cohesive depiction of helplessness and constraint, even if—or especially since—it won’t make for an exciting listen.
With “Sports,” Weekend have defined their formula for artistic merit, pursuing with nonchalant ingenuity (or perhaps brilliant carelessness) the overlap of punk and shoegaze. Theirs is a vision based on withdrawal and absence, and simplicity is at the core of their own brand of integrity.