That old childhood anti-taunting rhyme always comes to mind when I listen to a Trouble Vs. Glue record: “I’m rubber, you’re glue, whatever you call me bounces off and sticks to you.” I wonder if there’s an Italian equivalent to this? Regardless, in this scenario, there’s no bouncing, only sticking. Trouble and Glue go together like glue and whatever it sticks to, and if Trouble and Glue start sticking themselves to other things, we’re all in for a massive amount of misfortune. Or, if it’s the good kind of trouble, we could really just be in for a “whale” of a good time. Fortunately, with Trouble Vs. Glue, the no wave/post punk duo from Rome, it’s mostly the latter, especially on their new LP, This Age. And if you’re wondering why there are scare quotes around “whale,” you’re not focusing on the right things.
Because that guitar! The one that begins This Age on “Moon Shaped” is like a metallic cat-o’-nine-tails attached to a drill and jammed right into your gut. It is a mission statement, a serrated, blood-soaked mission statement that’s equal parts DNA and Erase Errata. Trouble and Glue (because that’s what Toni and Lady Maru call themselves) trade vocals, and by the end of the track the synthesizers take over with actual melody, sort of softening the blow of the opening. But not by much – no, not by much. Did Six Finger Satellite ever soften anything, ever? That’s right – add Trouble Vs. Glue to that short list SFS is on, because they are uninterested in subtlety, and they barely reign in control of their performance. They’re manic and outrageous, wish fulfilling every aging punk’s regret that the Residents were never as mainstream as Devo.
But “Moon Shaped” is merely a springboard into the rest of the album, a synth punk wonderland populated by DFA secret agents and forgotten European punk figures. Where “Backwards” and “Hands in Hell” offer squiggle bursts of intense dissonance, tracks like “Combination” (featuring Cascao on synth and vocals) are pure pop nuggets that should not go unnoticed in more mainstream circles. “Secret Place” manages to remind me of Garbage (!) in that Lady Maru sings the hook, “It always rains in my secret place,” recalling Shirley Manson’s similar sentiment of “I’m only happy when it rains.” Of course there’s some gutter-goth ideology apparent in such an anarchic approach to pop elements in music, and “I Just Care Of” has some Gary Numan–esque characteristics (slowed-down synth work, vocoder) up against some James Murphy–style proclamations at its center. In fact, it seems that Trouble Vs. Glue has access to Murphy’s record collection, or maybe they just have equal or better access to all the classics on wax. I wouldn’t put it past them – it’s amazing what kind of records you can get in Europe.
Let it be said, then, that This Age is a righteous successor to 2013’s excellent Die Trauerweide, itself a crazy good time of a Euro-punk release. Trouble and Glue have grown better and more confident while not losing what makes their particular brand tick. That’s good news for us wax-loving idiots who’ll pay ridiculous shipping sums for overseas delivery. We’re all ready for the rubbery outpouring from the imaginations of these two romane to stick in our brains like intelligent rebuttals to well-lobbed insults. Or, to be less obtuse, we’re ready to rock and roll, Italian style, Trouble Vs. Glue style, with a spring in our step and a catchy tune in our ear – scrambled to messy perfection, of course.