Discount – “Crash Diagnostic” (1999)

This is sort of Part II of my trip into Alison Mosshart’s past with the Florida band Discount. The other day I wrote about their 1997 album Half Fiction, and today I’m listening to their follow up (and final) album, 1999’s Crash Diagnostic.

I mentioned in the previous post about how much Half Fiction surprised me – the Mosshart on that punk-pop album didn’t sound anything at all like the singer I know from The Kills and Dead Weather. So I figured Crash Diagnostic would be in the same vein as Half Fiction. And once again I was wrong.

That’s not to say that Crash Diagnostic is some kind of massive departure – it’s not like Discount all of sudden put out a hip hop album or something. But whereas Half Fiction had a clean, structured, and frankly a bit formulaic pop-punk sound, their next effort shows the band breaking loose of the structure they’d built for themselves. Yes, the songs are still punk rock short – almost half the album’s 15 tracks are less than two minutes long, and Discount never cracks the four minute mark. Yes, Mosshart’s singing voice sounds much more like the Mosshart of Half Fiction than the woman I first encountered with The Kills. But there is a lot more variety here. I don’t feel like I’ve got a whole bunch of songs all at the same speed and pace except for a few obligatory slower numbers; musically they broke out of their shell, varying speeds within songs and coming across like a more mature band. Seeing this significant evolution from Half Fiction to Crash Diagnostic makes me wish Discount had had one more album in them so we could see where this progression would have taken them.

The opening track “Broken To Blue” is somewhat similar to Discount’s earlier work, but with the second song “Age Of Spitting” the band takes a 90 degree turn and never looks back. Here is where we see Mosshart sounding more like her later self, but the band too is off into some different territory with breaks and shifts in the sound that didn’t exist on Half Fiction. It’s a jarring change of pace and one of the best songs on the album. “Harder To Tell,” with its subtle harmonizing, sounds so indie radio friendly it seems like it should have been a major college radio hit. There are even two short instrumentals, both named after the length of the tracks – “(:38)” and “(1:04).”

Crash Diagnostic is a cool album. It’s a bit more work than Half Fiction – if you like any of the songs on that album, you’ll probably enjoy the whole thing all the way through, while your feelings for the songs on Crash Diagnostic will probably vary widely. But that’s a good thing, because there’s something here for almost everyone.

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