On Office of Future Plans and the Post-Punk Cellist

Posted by Tobias Carroll

There’s an joy that can arise when certain disparate elements combine and simply click, creating a result that sidesteps any preconceived notions of sums and parts. It’s an odd comparison to raise when talking about music, but lately, I’ve become fascinated by mixtures of salt with things that are otherwise sweet — chocolate or caramel, for instance. This is what comes to mind when listening to music that adds the resonant sound of a cello to driving, jarring post-punk. Many years ago, a co-worker introduced me to The Ex’s collaborations with cellist Tom Cora; last year, I picked up the reissued LP Scrabbling at the Lock, which promptly got inside my head and never really left. (Indeed, I had it on the brain when writing about Buke & Gass’s Riposte for Dusted.)

Newly arrived in my mailbox is the first seven inch from Office of Future Plans. Certain aspects of their sound are familiar: that’s J. Robbins on vocals and guitar, and if you’ve heard his work in Jawbox or Burning Airlines, you have an idea of the abrasive pop songwriting on display here. But what makes this group distinct is the presence of Gordon Withers’s cello in the lineup (on “Harden Your Heart,” at least; Withers plays guitar on the Stranglers cover on the single’s b-side). It lends unexpected textures to the group’s sound, allowing the group to head to unexpected places while still maintaining a steady verse/chorus/verse dynamic. And that dynamic suggests some interesting places for this quartet to go; based on their one original here, I’m intrigued to hear what else they might explore.