If vulnerability had a sound, what would it be? Does being unguarded always mean being meek and unassuming? Or do the vulnerable have some fight in them? In their debut LP, Philadelphia noise-rock duo Pinkwash bare their teeth as powerfully as they bare their wounds. Inspired by the loss of guitarist Joey Doubek’s mother to cancer, the band’s name is an indictment against breast cancer profiteers and their dubious pink ribbon “awareness” campaigns. Collective Sigh is not just the next step in Doubek’s personal grief process; it’s a call to release tension wrought by other societal disorders, especially corporate greed and all the excess (and for those less fortunate, the scarcity) it generates.
The band hammers out prog-like repetitions in violent lockstep; with steel resolve, drummer Ashley Arnwine anchors the seismic furor emanating from Doubek’s wall of stacked bass and guitar amps, most impressively in “Burning Too.” (“I’ve burned all your bedsheets,” Doubek spits, “I’ll burn when I sleep/Like you were burning too.”) It’s not all sonic blood and guts, though; interspersed with surprise trills of synth, “Gumdrop” is a brightly hued sludgefeast. Romance somehow enters the fray in “Metastatic,” a melodic love letter with a metallic edge. “Combusting like a beauty, collapsing like a star,” Doubek hollers, approaching what seems like the last limit of his lung capacity. Collective Sigh is a potent first showing: grisly in its execution, yet perfectly tender at the core.