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Anti-Capitalist Art Punks

Taiwan Housing Project. Photo by Donald Bruno.
Taiwan Housing Project. Photo by Donald Bruno.

Kilynn Lunsford, vocalist with noisy art-rock band Taiwan Housing Project, is feeling scattered as she talks to me on the phone from her home in Philadelphia. “It’s hot,” she says.

Along with the rest of her band, Lunsford is prepping to leave on a month-long tour supporting the band’s latest release, Veblen Death Mask, out now on legendary Northwest indie record label Kill Rock Stars. 

“I’m packing,” she says. “We’re leaving tomorrow — early. It’s pretty stressful.”

And Veblen Death Mask itself has the same at-the-end-of-my-rope feeling: a dirty boogie, a conflagration of styles like surf, girl groups and punk rock. Now and then a saxophone skronks from the corner of the room.

And it’s all not so much run through a blender as more like a meat grinder or a wood chipper. If the occasional bloody finger gets in the mix, all the better. It’s bludgeoning and messy but utterly captivating. 

“It’s loud,” Lunsford says of the record. “It has the standard rock band configuration. There’s psych aspects, rowdy aspects, psychobilly/rockabilly/surf — all kinds of things going on.”

And on top of it all, there’s Lunsford’s singing — or, as she describes it, occasional “yelping,” riding a fine line between musicality and spoken word recitation. Lunsford says that, lyrically, the album is inspired in part by the thinking of Norwegian-American economist, sociologist and critic of capitalism, Thorstein Veblen.

“There’s this idea of conspicuous consumption,” Lunsford says, as Veblen termed the act of buying certain things or paying for services simply as symbols of status. Which for many of us is one of modern life’s most consuming anxieties.

Taiwan Housing Project plays with Ü(ew) 10 pm Monday, July 31, at Luckey’s; $5 door, 21-plus. — Will Kennedy