The Ernies, a Richmond-based quintet, are unrepentant noisemakers, fond of reveling in a thrashing mix of cranked up guitars, bass, saxophone, drums and turntables. Punk, metal, hip-hop, ska, and even a whiff of Goth fuels the band's new album, "Meson Ray," igniting a sonic blast powerful enough to induce a severe case of tinnitus.
Yet even if the band's instrumental arsenal were suddenly muted by a power failure, its lyrics would suggest an almost relentlessly manic pulse tempered by a disarming sense of irony and humor. Certainly lead songwriter Mark Hummel isn't about to take himself -- or the band -- all that seriously. For proof, check out "Digestible," easily one of the best songs on the album. It concerns a listener who found the band's lyrics stiff and impenetrable. "Why do they let you on the microphone," he asks. "You drop no science, your lyrics don't flow." Responding to the put-down, Hummel celebrates the band's twisted songs and oddball stance as if they were the group's twin purposes in life. "There's something more incredible than the universe entertaining itself in a way that's digestible," he counters.
It's little vignettes like that one, along with a few surprisingly subtle and playful musical touches, that allow "Meson Ray" to frequently rise above the incredible din.
Appearing Sunday at the Freedom Fest on F Street between Sixth and Ninth streets NW. To hear a free Sound Bite from the Ernies, call Post-Haste at 202/334-9000 and press 8123. (Prince William residents, call 690-4110.)