I have never once been so confused by a song as I was the first time someone told me to listen to "Stick Stickly," by Attack Attack! All I'd been told was that it was the source of the animated GIFs I'd started seeing all over the internet, in which a band's synchronized guitar power-moves suddenly went full-crab--that they were the progenitors of "crabcore," which was probably not a real genre.
For 30 seconds they sounded about like the band in the animated GIF looked--loud, screamy. That's when the autotune came in.
I'm not sure my jaw literally dropped, but it literally-figuratively dropped--the only sensation I can compare it to is that moment your grandma, in the middle of a perfectly lovely conversation, casually drops a racial slur. I'm not comparing autotune, or the "Stick Stickly" chorus, to racial slurs (necessarily.) It's just that time stopped, when it happened, and I instinctually swiveled my head around the room to make sure nobody else had heard it.
I'm sure this developed organically out of a bunch of scenes I'm not privy to--you can find other "electronicore" bands that hit a lot of the same startling notes, if you're looking. It isn't as shocking as it felt that first time.
But most people weren't looking; they just saw the crabcore GIF, clicked through to a YouTube video, and were hit with it--a million breakdowns, one after the other, that seem to have nothing much in common. They had to confront the mix of New Found Glory, Europop, and speed-bag metal riffs without any context. Attack Attack! was so strange to the broader culture because most of us heard them by mistake, connected to a meme they had little to do with.
For better or worse, though, the Attack Attack! you'll see in Mesa's Nile Theater on Monday night is not the Attack Attack! that used pink and purple bubble-lettering on the cover of their first album; that named songs "Bro, Ashley's Here," and "What Happens If I Can't Check My MySpace When We Get There?", and "Stick Stickly," for that matter; that played crabcore.
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They've gone through multiple lineup changes since then, and their last album, 2011's This Means War, dropped most of the EDM for an more easily understandable metalcore sound. This is actually their farewell tour; their final song, "No Defeat," is a simplified, even catchy affair, with a late-Fall-Out-Boy chorus that's more totally digested than the pop and dance chunks floating around in "Stick Stickly."
If crabcore ever existed, it's dead now. But you can see the band that launched a thousand 4chan posts tonight, if you're interested.
Attack Attack! is scheduled to play Monday, May 13, at the Nile Theater in Mesa, with The Plot In You, Get Scared Dangerkids, and Closer to Closure. Tickets available here.