Anybody with even a passing interest in Detroit rock and punk surely must have noticed They Never Sleep looming over the city like an acid-filled cloud for the last 18 months or so, during which time they've played every spit 'n' sawdust venue in the area with anyone that dares share a bill with these psychopaths.
OK, "psychopaths" is a little strong. Maybe. But then, maybe not. Night after night, frontman Mike Hard gets off the stage, mid-show, and wanders around a frankly petrified audience, looking like a strange spawn of the Cramps' late Lux Interior. His motives are most likely to entertain, but his eyes betray the fact that he gets a massive amount of pleasure from making those around him uncomfortable.
As a result, this is a band that could have died on disc, so reliant are they on their live performance antics. Just the opposite has happened, however. Without the fear that Hard just might set you on fire in a club, the songs here reveal themselves to be — shock, horror — really good. Unsurprisingly, TNS sounds like a cross between the God Bullies, Thrall and Queen Bee (all of which featured some or all of the members of this band), but age has done nothing to mellow these musicians. On the contrary, their combined experiences have given They Never Sleep a genuinely disturbing and haunting sound. Try listening to "Rain" on your own with the lights out … and then try not to creep under the comforter as Hard snarls and bassist Karen Neal coos like a maniac child.
This isn't pseudo-scary rock, a la Slipknot, though. Listening to They Never Sleep is like sitting on the night bus opposite a man wearing three pairs of pants (all with the zipper down) while he throws a wide-eyed grin at you for the entirety of your journey. But don't let that keep you away. They Never Sleep sounds like no one else in the city, and they'll give you the creeps. For that, they deserve to be celebrated.
Brett Callwood writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.