A flash of light and then a brief darkness. The pupils are dilated and the vision is blurred. A strange “thock” sound still jumps on the eardrum — dizziness. This is a real punch to the head and Calgary’s Sabertooth shows no remorse for it. Spaces Between is a deliberate blow in cold blood.
Everything’s loud, out of breath. Lusting after electricity, strings vibrate so fast that they’re close to sublimation. It’s hard not to imagine steel-coated scratches on the guitarists’ fingertips and peeled skin molecules intertwined with the wires. Breakneck, self-aware tunes, spilt all over the place, consciously repeat themselves to the point where every song brings out the same atmosphere; lightly differentiated versions of deranged chords and drum beats.
There aren’t any spaces between the tracks and the listener for mental decompression and bodily recovery, except for the first few seconds of “Spaces Between,” “Contusions” and “Seawater” where hints of a refreshing twist interrupt the frenetic monotony. In total, 72 seconds of a tacit promise that Sabertooth have the urge and ability to experiment further and produce music that will grow in character without denying its roots. Although infused with these scintillations of future excitement, Spaces Between is all that “clone destination” punk can mean: every song takes you to the same place by a used car, following the same course to the highway and turning to the same exit. Even the pissed-off, frenzied vocals cannot make up for it.
Why do they shout? Who do they want to wake up? Spaces Between is both a question and an exclamation mark. “ Freaking out / freaking out” still echoes like trying to ease a prolonged teenage angst. It’s a challenge to admit the existence of melody — maybe you’ll need 2 or 3 playbacks if you’re in a bad mood. But truth is the more you listen to it, the more you discover its predictable earworm quality.
Surprisingly their predictability rubs against Keith Caves’ fascinating cover art which actually uncovers our potential of an unmaterialistic greatness and the cost to acknowledge and reach it. No pain, no gain after all. Rebels should have a cause. Sabertooth may have found their own inside Calgary’s sterile urbanity that indulges conservatism. And progressive rebels need challenging instrumentation. As an affirmation of their iconoclastic artistry, I expect Sabertooth someday to break their own rules and risk a re-coded guitar distortion.