21 08 08 - 12:23
Trash Talk - S/T
Trash Talk Collective, 2008
When music runs out of ideas, it recycles old genres. When that happens, smart music fans look for the exceptions that give both style and substance some tweaks to make them compatible with the current time and its challenges. Where the retro-thrash movement has produced some imitators of no substance, Trash Talk comes crashing in with a punk-inspired, thrash-influenced offering that invokes elements of the underground that developed while music festered in nu-metal and metalcore. Although the band compares themselves to Cryptic Slaughter, and comparisons could easily be drawn to Municipal Waste, what fuels this mania is more akin to the suffocated rage and dissident misanthropy that made Eyehategod and Acid Bath favorites of the late 1990s. Songs are sludgy rants that explode into frenetic activity, then smash it all down again, like a self-fulfilling prophecy of doom. It is as if Trash Talk enjoy beating on their audience, lulling them into a false sense of security such as they might enjoy from media, religious or government leaders, and then detonating the result in a searing diatribe. While people will compare this record to works from Discharge or DRI, it's more like Eyehategod meets Crass with Neurosis in the wings. It's fortunate to see punk hardcore given another chance with this acerbic testament to the enduring powers of resistance through surliness.
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18 08 08 - 18:48
Jesu - Why Are We Not Perfect
Hydra Head, 2008
Justin Broadrick demonstrated through his early works a desire for that moment of unitivity when the conscious mind and emotions synchronized. Through Godflesh, and later Techno Animal and Final, he showed a passion for bringing colossal structures to bear on moments of quiet contemplation. With Jesu, he resurrects his music outside the ghetto that extremist offerings can be, and melds into post-rock disparate influences from industrial, shoegaze, noisepop, and so forth. Jesu, protean as all Broadrick projects are, in turn twisted from more radiantly noisy to its current softer state. On "Why Are We Not Perfect" Jesu moves the slider closest to shoegaze and pop, losing much of the more complicated structuring and sound that made earlier Jesu challenging. This gambit may prove risky: many in the post-rock fanclub would like to leave behind what so rigidly defines rock and brings the moths to its one-size-fits-all dose, and "Why Are Not Perfect" drapes its nearly ecclesiastical encompassing layered sound over the exuberant shuffle beats of rock/pop. Song structures are not linear but follow a verse chorus pattern culminating in a serenity like the moment after a surf crashes on the beach when water lapses into absorbent, silent sand. Less jagged distortion and cleaner, plaintive emo vocals guide each song and sounds elide smoothly from abrasive feedback to silken, reminiscent of shoegaze classics like Medicine and My Bloody Valentine. While this EP satisfies as a taste, and an exploration, this reviewer hopes Broadrick abandons the past -- and doesn't relapse into his influences -- so he can keep exploring the seemingly erratic, intense jigsaw song structures he served up on the self-titled Jesu debut.
18 08 08 - 09:55
When I write about metal, I often distinguish works -- which I consider to, at their best, be art -- by how honest they are. It's fairly easy to tell, although most people find that unnerving. An honest work tries to communicate with you; a dishonest work tries to game you by convincing you it's something it's not, so that you do x, or y or z that benefits those who made it. It's a virus, in other words.
Dishonest works are generally the product of The Hipster, which is any person who tries to be hip for the sake of their own ego, instead of having a useful function of any kind. Hipsters are parasites on the social scene in that they want attention for being unexceptional, and since they can't succeed at life by being exceptional -- including making good music, being people we'd like to know, etc -- they become dramatic and draw attention to themselves with increasingly radical styles of dress and behavior. If you ever find someone doing something humiliating, stupid, freakish, or pointless while slyly watching you out of the corner of their eye, you've found the same psychology.
It's not much different from parasitic religions that convince people to fail at life so they can succeed at the board game called "What God Likes." I'm not saying life is about success, or material success, just that if you want to have a good life, you need to have some function and challenge yourself to do it well. Hipsters don't do that. They want the reward without the work.
We have a hipster core here in Texas. It's called Austin. Hipsters are fond of one of many modern illusions, a socialized liberalism -- a well-intentioned emotion channeled into a fashion that pretends to be an ideology, but never achieves its goals, despite making a hash of things on its path -- that like drugs makes us feel better, but doesn't solve any problems, and strengthens rather than weakens its ostensible enemy, the total state. Hipsters are useful because they beat liberalism out of people who are still able to think.
When I went to Austin, I was all about tolerance. I was still clueless as to the problems of the world, mainly because I spent most of my time working.
When I saw the liberal paradise that is Austin, I realized that liberalism is basically parasitism. "If someone has x, and I don't, I deserve it, and I'll force them to share with social guilt"; after seeing that, and the complete social havoc -- where good people were not only ignored but socially persecuted, and vapid whores predominated and suffocated art and culture with their lies -- I left Austin and liberalism behind.
(There may be an honest liberalism. To me, when I was a liberal, it meant not allowing big pointless entities to rule over people in destructive ways. I'm thinking about all the people who got dicked over by their stupid jobs, all the toxic waste dumped into rivers, all the junk products that just ended up in landfills, all the overdeveloped areas where forests were sacrificed, etc. For me, liberalism meant restraining humanity's appetite with common sense. I soon learned that if you oppose power, however, you soon get people who oppose power for power's sake because they're powerless. They have no power in life and no control over their own appetites, so they hate anything that resembles power, but since they're weak, they don't attack directly but through whining. I was a classical liberal, which meant treat people fairly. That philosophy however decays un-gracefully into revenge for the underdog, hatred of excellence, and desire to turn the world into one uniform Safe(tm) place. I realized quickly how this plays into the hands of our leaders. It distracts our best people and sends them off to defend those who have failed at life, and then the activists in turn fail at life, so they spent their time fighting for the right to fail. It's a sick cycle but easily avoidable if you think it through: the problem isn't power, but people in power without a clue, and they're in power because all the failed people want pleasant illusions instead of reality. So if you're an honest liberal, don't take this column as a personal attack, or a political statement. I'm pointing out how liberalism commonly decays into self-importance, hipsterism and other problems, not trying to assault the emotional or psychological impetus behind liberal thinking.)
Austin is the hipster capital of the world, in many ways. I've been to Seattle and to San Francisco, to L.A. (Silver Lake) and to Mizzoula, MT, all of which are hipster-havens. But Austin hipsters have the city locked down. Under the guise of fighting the man, you're supposed to be weird and freaky and do whatever the man doesn't expect. But you go back to work the next day, having learned nothing. It's a good town to work food service until you're 42 and then become a regular, bitter writer on Alternet.org.
Austin suffocates every quality band who tries to set up shop there. Metal bands in particular suffer because, unless you infiltrate the social network and start behaving like a hipster, no one will attend your shows. People are too afraid of being un-hip to go see an unknown, unless that "unknown" is secretly an underground favorite. As a result, the best Austin bands are the ones that have nothing to do with the "seen" (Scene) there.
Emos, hipsters, modern primitives, trend whores, carnies, defiant minorities and lesbians, drug use theorists, mantra-chanting New Agers, feminists, body modification fetishists, coprophages, "witches," faux artists of all variety, embittered defiant hippies, foreskin collectors, and other failures of all sorts cluster in Austin. They have failed at making something of their lives, so they are using cognitive dissonance, and making themselves a Big Deal in social/moral/hip circles.
When I seize power, it will be very unwise for anyone to spend time in Austin. The B-52 carries 27 tons of high explosive and, if unleashed on a city block, literally landscapes it into a moon surface of ceramicized dirt covered in the dust of charred, vaporized plants, animals, and buildings -- this is a consequence of the TNT/HE mix used in modern bombs. The explosions are so loud that people up to a mile away will lose hearing for the next two days. Some of the fireballs approximate a quarter mile in size, and can be seen from nearby cities. A flight of B-52s, properly targetted, can erase a city so thoroughly that from space it resembles a desert, and this is without use of nuclear weapons.
That form of horror, visited upon Austin, will not cost the human race any geniuses. Nor will it diminish its artistic or social potential. Instead, it will increase our potential by removing the false and giving space to something new, like weeding a garden and dropping in seeds for non-parasitic plants. Don't cry for Austin, because that entire town is one giant emo hipster cognitive dissonance passive aggression parasite. Its death in flaming vapor will be a great step forward for taste and beauty.
Metal music, like nature, is not about fashion. It's not about being nice to everyone so they can feel good for being exceptional. It's about results. About making civilizations that make people inhale sharply whenever they see their ruins for the next 10,000 years. About getting art, science, culture, etc. right. About doing things that matter because they're not the same humdrum. Forging new spaces, destroying emptiness, making life interesting and giving us something to live for. Like nature, in metal life is struggle, but struggle for beauty and not the bloated, ugly, self-importance of an ego. Metal is anti-hipster, and anti-Austin.
06 08 08 - 18:31
For whatever reason, a lot of Swedish death metal seems to be created by the inordinately young, and often, the inordinately skilled for their age. Even before ENTOMBED released Clandestine
, and at the same time that AT THE GATES was gelling its impulses, the members of DARK TRANQUILLITY
, only 15 and 16 themselves, were putting together high-intensity death metal that was more melodic than the common offerings of the time, but whose stylistic bent would be adopted by hordes younger replacements within a matter of years.
The now-classics that emerged from Stockholm managed to channel their youthfulness into solid composition without succumbing to it as such. Unfortunately for DARK TRANQUILLITY, the band's compositions of the period bear the weight of their ambitious minds rather poorly; seemingly decent ideas are too-far fractured to be remembered long, and what remains are riffs -- often well-written riffs -- but only that, parsed through series of confusing time signature changes and strange juxtapositions of melody. As demo material it is probably suitable, but its broader importance was over-inflated by the incestuous Swedish scene, as well as the playful dress-up of simpler ideas that became more conspicuously pursued by the band itself as time moved on.
This is just one tale among many of bands who were almost
there, damned by any number of circumstances or peculiarities. It is interesting to reflect on them in the context of better things.