SINGLE REVIEW: Smoke Signals – “Means to an End” [2014]


Artist: Smoke Signals

“Means to an End” – Single


Where there’s smoke, there is sure to be fire the old saying goes—and in the case of the latest single from Smoke Signals, it couldn’t be more true. “Means to an End,” the lead single from these Arkansas annihilators’ upcoming EP, is a white-hot lesson in bouncy, groovy aggression laced with splashes of subtle harmony and a catchiness more contagious than the common cold. If the smoke rising from this inferno of a single reads anything for the future of Smoke Signals, it would almost certainly foretell of the band’s astounding promise.

“Means to an End” begins with a bang—a gunshot sending gyrating, energetic grooves straight into the listener’s brain. The guitars are low and writhing, expertly weaving lines of heavy—yet catchy—riffs between punchy, pounding percussion, while the bass keeps in perfect time with the candor of the crushing kick drum and crunchy, splashing china cymbal. Alongside the standard cacophony of stringed instruments and artillery of percussive elements lies a stand-out use of electronic elements that give the listener an almost Death of an Era-like vibe. While the guitars chug and crush away, creating a fast-pace style of ruthless heaviness, the electronic elements lurk in the background, adding deep atmosphere—until such a time where they jump to the foreground. This is especially true during the track’s opening breakdown, where the empty space between dissonant chugs and spine-splitting percussion is filled with electronic mayhem that takes the listener completely by surprise.

While the instrumentation is dynamic and energetic, the real driving force behind Smoke Signals’ onslaught lies in the diverse use of harsh and clean vocals to add to the single’s lyrical dynamic. “Means to an End” speaks of bitterness, misanthropy and a general malaise towards the likes of bottom-feeding, ungrateful individuals—a bitterness beautifully displayed by the grating, harsh screams that serve as the main modicum of vocals for the song. However, where the sentiment of anger and aggression begins to wane, the screams follow suit—flowing into a soaring cleanly sung chorus that is sure to sty lodged in the listener’s head for eons. Together, the use of clean vocals and harsh screaming creates a back-and-forth dynamic that adds to the depth of the lyrics while also aiding the track in becoming a well-rounded and diverse listen. “Means to an End” is a brilliant example of all these lads from Little Rock have to offer—punchy, go-for-the-throat aggression and hyper-melodic moments of surreal catchiness—meaning that it’ll only be a matter of time before their EP is setting fire to the listeners head and sending up plumes of unintelligible, acrid smoke.