Try to Keep Up: Müscle Wörship, December 16 at Bier Stube Print
Music - Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Tuesday, 10 December 2013 11:25

Müscle Wörship. Photo by Jonathan Van Dine.

There’s a perfectly practical reason the Kansas-based band Müscle Wörship uses umlauts in its name – to protect people who would rather not know about a particular sexual fetish. So a word of advice to those folks: Don’t do an online search for the band without those umlauts!

But the combination of a somewhat-deviant punk-ish name and those metal dots (à la Motörhead) makes musical sense, too, as Müscle Wörship lives in the cracks between styles. There’s the lean aggression of punk, the experimental complexity of post-punk, the general heaviness of metal, extensive use of the tremolo bar that sometimes recalls the signature guitar sounds of both My Bloody Valentine and Neil Young, alternative tunings that bring to mind Sonic Youth, a grunge-y emphasis on hooks and distorted melody, and even hints of emo in the vocals.

The magic is that – on Müscle Wörship’s self-titled debut album from earlier this year – those disparate elements have been combined in a way that, against all odds, is nearly monolithic: 32 furious minutes of great and nearly great infectious hard rock. (And just to be clear: The whole record is 32 minutes.) The group’s music has three very different methods of persuasion – forceful enough to grab you by the throat, accessible enough to suck you in, and intricate enough to get lost in. In that sense, the name is wholly appropriate: This is music that’s all beautifully sculpted muscle.

The band – singer/guitarist Sean Bergman, bassist Anthony Piazza, drummer Nathan Wilder (of the Appleseed Cast) – will perform on December 16 at the Moline Bier Stube, and the album is a strong indication what the show will sound like. Although Müscle Wörship is dense, it was basically tracked live with the exception of some vocal and bass parts – the latter because of a personnel change.

That Müscle Wörship could create (and can re-create live) the album’s rich textures with three people is surprising, particularly given the multiple guitar parts. Bergman said in a recent phone interview that he uses a stereo guitar rig and loops live, giving him the ability to craft paired and contrasting parts.

But his sound is equally important, sometimes deeply expressive for music that’s also so combative. “I’m basically bending,” he said. “A lot.” He said he grew up loving Young but picked up his tremolo techniques from other guitarists he’s played with. “I decided if I was going to do it, I needed to take it as far as I could do it,” he said. He named Sonic Youth, My Bloody Valentine, and Polvo as additional influences but added: “What I’m doing, I think fans of those bands might think is a little bit more spastic-sounding ... . I’m going for more of a sharper attack.”

The combination of the looping and tremolo is often bracing – particularly in tandem with the dynamic, rubbery bass and the urgent, busy drumming. Sometimes, Bergman said, he’ll play a part without tremolo, loop it, and then play the same passage with the tremolo bar – leading to gorgeous passages (such as in the closing “Eleanora”) that both blend and battle with each other.

The looping can also by itself create some lovely moments. The closing of “Gone Before Dagon” features a loop that’s reversed to open the mournfully epic “A Firebreather Carefully Sobs.”

As for the tightness of the album and its songs, Bergman said the band’s composition process involves a lot of re-writing and culling. (Although Müscle Wörship founding bassist Billy Ning no longer tours, he’s still part of the songwriting process.)

“We really, really throw out a lot of stuff,” Bergman said. The goal is to craft a song that “still has a hook to it, and it may not be that easily accessible at first.” It’s critical, though, that the music not be odd for oddity’s sake; Bergman said the band asks: “Is there some meat here for somebody to catch on to right away?”

He added: “That’s the kind of stuff that we like. The records that I still love are the ones that when I first listened to them, I had a hard time keeping up with them. ... Records that last for months for you or longer, because your mind’s opening up to it as you get into it.”

Müscle Wörship will perform on Monday, December 16, at the Blackhawk Room at Bier Stube (415 15th Street , Moline). The all-ages show starts at 7 p.m. and also features Ice Hockey, Dynoride, Odd Dates, and Running Shoes. Cover is $6.

For more information on Müscle Wörship, visit or

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