Constantly picking apart melodic and lyrical ideas into a self-referential stew of collapsing rhythms, Sneaks makes dynamic music that cascades through different zones. It will inevitably be heard as post-punk considering that bass is the closest thing to a constant in the Highway Hypnosis environment, but just as certain bands like the Talking Heads and New Order took dance music as a muse for new wave, the album is lawless; a moody, cold energy the only constant between mechanical bass rhythms and crashing beats.
In terms of subject material, Sneaks is more about exploring sketches than painting a whole environment, which will likely turn off some listeners, but for those into Palberta’s sense of humor, or the classic Wire material, these songs will be laughed at and loved.
“Saiditzoneza” sounds like Sneaks made up a word to see what it would be like as a foundation block of a tune and then didn’t build anything on top of it. “Holy Cow I Never Saw A Girl Like That,” is classic Sneaks, toying with that title to maniacal effect with the equally evil bass-line accompanying.
The album also sports sonic tricks equivalent to these lyrical quirks. “A Lil Close” opens with a high-electro melody that could serve as a background for a Weeknd or Drake pop-R&B smash, but a knob suddenly gets twisted you’re left with a hollow rhythmic background for some more bass smothering. “Cinnamon,” on the other hand is definitely melodically imagined, with Sneaks adopting a childlike awe between bouts of adult mumble–much of the details in the lyrics getting lost in the mix.
The highlights of the work are “The Way it Goes” and “Ecstasy,” however, and hopefully give a glimpse at the material Sneaks may be shooting for in the future.
The first is a hype track for an ambient action sequence in a made up movie with the lyric “and when the match-a-lit it goes up” and an ironic rap verse about skate boarding. “Ecstasy” is spacier with lots of catchy materials dancing around each other. Elongated syllables open for “running ’round the world with a planet of my own,” but by inflecting tidbits like quickly sung “I Don’t Wanna Explain” and “all I got is ecsta-sayyyyy,” Sneaks hints at a more verse-chorus-verse dynamic structure.
It’s good to hear sneaks do sneaks, but also sneaks can do structure–something that undeniably could’ve given Highway Hypnosis more buoyant energy from cover to cover. Hopefully Sneaks the ironic rapper will have more for us next cycle.