Out with the old; in with the new. The bad news: much-loved Montreal art-punk quartet Ought have announced they’re calling it quits after 9 years of groundbreaking music. But the good news: frontman Tim Darcy and bassist Ben Stidworthy are simultaneously announcing their new band Cola, with U.S. Girls drummer Evan Cartwright. Cola start off with a bang in their excellent first single, “Blank Curtain.”
It’s bittersweet because Ought was one of the most consistently adventurous and thrilling bands of the 2010s, with three stellar albums after they formed as young politicized students at McGill. Their 2014 debut, More Than Any Other Day, was a righteous blast of post-punk fury, with delicate moments like “Habit,” a Talking Heads-meet-Robert Quine guitar meditation on spiritual addictions. For some of us, Ought’s “Beautiful Blue Sky” (from 2015’s Sun Coming Down) was one of the peak songs of the decade, a spectacular ode to embracing life with all its fear and dread.
Ought’s farewell statement says, “We are no longer active as a band. When we started Ought in 2012 we had no greater aspirations than to play and write music together, and the fact that we were able to tour the world to such an extent and share so many rooms with so many of you has meant the world to us.” Cola have announced an upcoming album (on the label Fire Talk) along with their live debut on Nov. 16, at the Brooklyn club Baby’s All Right.
Cola sound like a streamlined version of Ought in “Blank Curtain”— a gorgeously obsessive guitar groove. Darcy, in his distinctively oratorical voice, declaims wry poetry about feeling his identity slip away, asking, “Is there a notion to explain the mirror to the wall?” His guitar has an elegiac twang, like Tom Verlaine in “Marquee Moon” mode, as if each bent note is another puncture wound in his heart.
As Darcy says, in his typically quizzical style, “If you could invert the color of the ‘Blank Curtain,’ you might have something like a Chicago house track that sounds like a band in a room.” But “Blank Curtain” is more than just a beautiful tune — it’s a graceful way to mark the transition from one stage of life to the next.