In the afterglow of emo's 15 minutes, everyone is dispersing like houseguests fleeing a kegger after the cops come. As the lights finally go out, Milemarker slips out behind the Faint, following them around the corner to a warehouse hosting an Eighties dance night. But while the corn-fed Nebraskans of the Faint may lose themselves amid the pasty, limber-limbed nostalgists, Milemarker seem more likely to argue among themselves just outside the door, unable to fully reconcile their keyboardist's gothic drone with their guitarists' D.C.-inspired, post-core sound.
It's in that fight between the groove and the angularity that we find the quartet as they embark on Satanic Versus, a Steve Albini-engineered attraction that envisions Gang of Four as members of Suicide. Their competing natures come together for "The Banner to the Sick," on which the band integrates an epic, glacial pulse with aggro guitar-tension and dispassionate, Fugazi-inspired sing-shouts. But while "Idle Hands" suggests a little two-step that at any minute might happily break into Soft Cell, the group seems unable to surrender to the moment, or to the insistent mechanical sway. Perhaps their real strength lies more in the direction of "Lost the Thoughts but Kept the Skin." This slow-to-ignite piano/guitar tug-of-war finds frontman Roby Newton's haunting, cabaret vocals alternately evoking post-apocalyptic despair and humanity's instinctive resilience. That song certainly reveals a more effective use of Milemarker's skills than the deconstructionist title track or the new wave-meets-drum 'n' bass of album opener "Join Our Party."
At the end of the evening, Milemarker offer the tantalizing tease of a drunken slap-and-tickle that threatens to bring their math-rock earnestness into contact with their arch, impersonal Sturm und Drang, but stops shy of going all the way. Such shortcomings are a little dispiriting, but they're eased by the promise that Milemarker will someday discover how to transfer the furious, spastic passion of their live show onto tape. Until then, you can't beat the noises they make when you're in the room with them.