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The protorockers of Milemarker rouse cold-truth ruminations on breaking free from worst-case scenarios. Combining punk arithmetic and ethereal synthesizer with wraithlike singing, their fourth full length (first on indie stalwart Jade Tree) crystallizes their hardcore ethos and stark sound into an aural movement that mightily motivates. Initially a revolving roster of indie-rock ideologicos of the post-whatevercore persuasion, Milemarker's past works are intriguing if noisy attempts at fusing earthy grit and synthetic gleam into a solid groove. But the staunch din of lo-fi revealed a glaring unevenness; songs came across like soundtracks to never-released movies titled City of Chrome or I Married a Bar-Coded Capitalist! 1999's cryptic Frigid Forms Sell solidified the lineup and showed more consistency, but the jarring disconnect remained.

Anaesthetic is that subversive, sci-fi, punk-rock album that Kurt Vonnegut's crotchety hero Kilgore Trout might enjoy, one that should shake up a generation. In driving, guitar-cleaved, nü-wave anthems ("Shrink to Fit," "The Fear Is Back in Town") and sprawling, prog-rock eeriness ("Lost the Thoughts But Kept the Skin," "Ant Architect"), Milemarker becomes a chorus of ominous chiders without being clichéd sloganistas. Al Burian, Roby Newton, and Dave Laney trade lyrics that range the gamut of warnings, tirades, and anecdotes. "Your brains would be of better use than food for worms," Roby warbles ethereally, though accusingly, in the fractured, plodding beauty of the antisuicidal "Food for Worms." Milemarker's crisis rock, finally jelled, infiltrates with a full-on bioelectric android assault played with a meticulous -- even catchy -- fervor. Anaesthetic is all about survival, especially in the face of thriving sociopolitical anathema. The result is as unambiguous a charge as the menacing music of shimmering circuitry spilling from the smashed DVDs, SUVs, and CPUs of a digital-city rebellion kept alive with secrets.

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David Karpel

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