Monthly Archives: October 2009

Today Is The Day: What’s So Experimental About Metal, Anyway?

austinSteve Austin strikes me as a singularly-minded sort of fellow, for better and for worse. Just read this Metalsucks.net interview; Mr. Austin might seem crazy, but no one could argue he is not dedicated to his work; Today is the Day is the story of that dedication. The band has seen a number of folk shuffle in and out of the lineup over the past 16 years, but for my dollar they’re one of the most consistently interesting “heavy” acts ever.

The question of what makes this body of work “experimental metal” – as was raised in the comments section of this post – rather than one of the other twenty-five available genres is a fair one. As a dilettante, I can offer a possible solution to this everlovin’ question of genre without too much baggage:

Today is the Day is weird. (“Atypical”, in other words.) Continue reading

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Surfing The Past

hipstermetalFound this Simon Reynolds piece from way back when very interesting. (Despite being particularly unfamiliar with Sunn)

Followed that to this interesting essay (which I find apt, since most dubstep strikes me as dreadfully dull but I like what I’ve heard of Burial).

Yes, the conversation is a few years old, but the popularity of a few metal bands with the indie music nerd mainstream (and the general angst that produces in “metalheads”) is an ongoing phenomenon.

As an aside, describing metal lyrics as “intelligent” or, as a lesser prize, “more intelligent than pop music” is laughable and really, really beyond the point. You’re talking about a genre that encompasses both Municipal Waste and all those guys in clownpaint who got raped by the Swedish welfare state.

Intelligence is an ancillary issue at best.

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Bass Cars Co-Opted Into Participatory Kitsch

Truly the greatest strength and weakness of American culture is it’s incredibly modular ability to de-fang brutal trends by transmuting them into less harmful forms.

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Fuck Buttons – Tarot Sport

Tarot_SportGo hit their myspace and listen to the 7″ cut of the opener, “Surf Solar”. The whole album is like that, but longer and better.

Adding Andy Weatherall to produce was a good choice; this recording is a lot cleaner, at least in that there’s a lot more room for dirt. Plus it’s, like, mad techno-y and shit. Techno-esque. Technatic!

Fuck Buttons maintain their straight ahead and never look back approach to songwriting, in terms of both progression and overall length, but outside of a few questionable moments at the end of album closer “Flight of the Feathered Serpent”* where things get a bit too much live jam’d, there’s not a wasted moment here. Yeah, it’s all prom songs from the end of the world. And yeah, it’s pretty repetitive. But they learned a lot from Weatherall and Mogwai and even a bit from Coil, I think. The “noise” aspect is severely diminished, though it was never that strong to begin with. Having a lot of distortion isn’t necessarily noise, just noisy. It’s the difference between liking a Reverend Horton Heat album and dressing like a roadie for one of those alt-country types who likes heroin and puts punk rock stickers on his acoustic.

I challenge anyone not to like this stuff, even if they can only like it when no one else is looking because of “fucking hipsters something something something something” or whatever their hangups happen to be. I’ll be chillin’ in a rented tux at the end of time and they’re welcomed to come with.

* Yes, everyone really must get all pre-Columbian Mesoamerican exploitation flick for the next few years. Fucked if I know why.

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Genre Is A Millstone And Tom Araya Is Pushing 50

arayaThe original article was indeed filled with some inadequacies concerning genre specificity, as more than a few commentors pointed out. It was interesting, if a bit overwrought, but I think most folks can sympathize with the general concept of catharsis via sound.

The follow up was basically shameless fan service, but some interesting patterns emerged.

You not only have genre snobs, some of whom were performing fact-checking (Slayer being thrash, not death metal) and some of whom were being jerks for the sake of being jerks. On top of that, you had the anti-snob folks who were also being helpful or jerky. That’s fascinating. Genre is such a powerful social divider that you have preemptive snobbery!

Also, please note that when cropped correctly, Tom Araya looks a bit like Abraham Lincoln. Continue reading

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Death To Bass Cars; Or, To The Guidos Of All Nations

the-fish-carThe rich multi-ethnic polyglot of northeastern Queens extends even to the “bass car” phenomenon. Not only are there genuine 80s hair metal fans still running about – bless their souls – but it seems as though every ethnic grouping here has their own preferred soundtrack to match their fast-riding, look-ma-no-eyes motoring about town.

Traditional Italian-esque “Goodfellas/Scarface” composite guidos have their KTU techno and freestyle, a zombified musical form that refuses all attempts to kill it with decent electro; various “Queens Shmoes” – white, black, Asian, etc – really do seem to love Queensryche with a genuine heart that will never be hard-of-hearing, no matter how many pedantic guitar solos it endures; an even wider ethnic blend enjoys the loud sounds of whatever passes for hip-hop as it coasts through its hair-metal phase right into the arms of neo-disco; arabica and bhangra beats abound; there’s even plenty of that hilarious Mexican style of music with all the accordions in it. Aside from driving like complete assholes, they share the heavier-than-heavy need to bleed from the ears. They do this to let everyone know they’re coming and going, as well as allow those equipped with sonar know their approximate density, speed and distance.

The one exception to this rule are the Hasidim, who prefer to do their peerless homicidal driving in a comparative near-silence – all the better to haunt my dreams as an army of Civil War reenactors dressed like obese Abraham Lincolns and guiding half-wrecked minivans towards my terrified family.

I now share the road with them all, having been a legally licensed driver in the state of New York for almost a week. But I have studied guidos and bass cars for years. Continue reading

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Blacworld – Subduing Demons in Southern Yorkshire

alpha7When it comes down to it, while I can respect the huge influence that Cabaret Voltaire had on the growth of New Wave-y type sounds, the one CV album I still really enjoy listening to is The Conversation. Yup, their ambient techno double album, alternately ignored or hated by fans of their earlier work. While I do like some of their earlier stuff (see below), it’s usually overly long and poorly edited. As a general rule, the vocals are great for the first four minutes and increasingly less-great for the four minutes that follow.

What I like about The Conversation is that it is richly thematic, and the form actually lends itself to being too long and far too stingy with the edit button.

Anyway, things change, stay the same, etc etc and so forth: Continue reading

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