5.13.2005

time for music.

Here I sit: I'm drinking Lowenbrau and listening to Breather Resist. That's just like me.

Wrangler Brutes. "Zulu." As you must know by now, Sam McPheeters is the patron saint of this blog. So he's got a new band, which I've mentioned before. Didn't think much of it, until I downloaded a song called 'Powdered Wig', which to my astonished ears sounded like the Second Coming of the Dead Kennedys. Minus the annoying Surf guitar. Purchase of the new album became merely a matter of logistics. (money)
So now I have the CD, and here's an overview:
*There is a sticker on the shrinkwrap that says: "The bird, the dog and the shirt are attacking the skinhead." Because, y'know, that's what the picture is. That explanatory sticker complicates any kind of interpretation of the album art/theme. I'm baffled. The album cover is indeed of a shirt, dog and bird attacking a skinhead. Is the sticker there to clear something up? Is it somehow important for me to understand the underlying conflict represented on the cover? What?
*Incidentally, the back of the CD has two elephants having sex in the desert.
*The album is twenty minutes long.
*Oh yeah, the dog is wearing a Peace symbol collar and has been hit with a raw egg. The skinhead is emerging from a garbagecan wielding a spear. Meaning continues to elude me.
*The music that the Wrangler Brutes play is a novel mixture of new and old punk/hardcore. Stylistically, there is the previous reference to the Dead Kennedys, although you can hear traces of newer angular metalcore riffs here and there. 'Driving', fr'instance, starts with a riff that comes straight from the Converge playbook. The band sounds at once pared down, and overly complex. For example, there are no studio flourishes, very few effects, there's no ultra-modern Mesa Rectifier heavily-compressed guitar "heaviness." After listening to the album twenty times straight, yeah, the hooks are there but seemingly buried under musical run-on sentences and a mess of misplaced punctuation.
*Does it sound like I'm being too critical? I really like this album. But its one fault is that there is so much happening in so little time. Your typical retro-punk outfit might play four bars of G-D-C, the Wrangler Brutes' bassist will play four measures of arpeggios while the guitarist plays constantly-shifting dissonant chords. The drummer plays pretty consistently, but hard. It sounds like what it is, three hyper-talented musicians that are bored with conventional punk, running amok within a song that's only a minute long.
*One of the reasons the complexity of the riffs stands out so much may be because the album was produced without any digital manipulation. There are a few obvious technical flubs, and one probable lyrical flub. For example, the second bass note of the album sounds pretty sharp to me, and I really don't have a golden ear. I'm torn on this. On one hand, seeking digital 'perfection' on a recording just ends up making the music sound sterile. Trying to achieve 'perfection' on a record is about as odious a proposition as banning the use of adjectives in journalism. On the other hand, complex riffs like those produced by the Wrangler Brutes are in great danger of becoming jumbled and muddied when they aren't played exactly on beat. The recording, as a result, has got this stomach churning, exhilarating, harrowing quality to it: three musicians (and vocalist) playing live, at the very razor's edge of their abilities.
*Lyrically, though, Sam McPheeters has never been sharper. Shit, I loved hearing him on this recording. If you'll listen back on old Born Against material, you'll detect wry caustic humor throwing a dirty dropcloth over a desperate anxiety for the future. Circa Today, with the Wrangler Brutes, Sam's humour, insight, angst and ability are all sharper then ever and combined with a 'Holy Shit!' Bug-eyed existential crisis. "Unmentionables", f'rinstance, is a song about ordinary people confronting cosmic truths, and like, totally losing their shit in a public place. I may be easily amused, but I thought the term 'unmentionables' for both underwear and for incomprehensible truths was really spot-on. Plus it's got the chorus: "Unmentionables! It's incomprehensible! Don't show your underwear in public, or you will go to jay-yalllll!!!! Hut! Hut! Hut! Hut!" That's a crystal chandelier, in my book. Then we've got the unlikely sing-a-long of "Pemex, Gazprom, Exxon", which was stuck in my head for days. 'Adjust it' deals with America's unique luxury in that people can choose to alter their perception of impending danger by merely changing the channel. Very insightful.
*Some other tracks of note: 'Garbage Can.' Why? "Ariel Sharon is a fucking cock, I'd like to sock him in the crotch with a pointy rock." 'Mgmt. Sheen.' Why? Minute-long bellow. 'Zulu' is thirty seconds of pure unadulterated song. And finally, 'Homosexual President', the album's closing track. With a killer name like 'Homosexual President', you figure, the song better be good. And it is. So good.
mp3: Shit Search.

May 6: Cursed w/Fucked Up, Protest The Hero & others @ the 360.
Here's the thing: I wear converse and black hoodies during the day. These are my normal garments. I'm not trying to impress anyone. I catch a quick note in one of our weekly rags: Cursed is playing tonight. Holy shit. I'd be an asshole not to go. What am I wearing? Blue jeans, worn in. Slightly snug. I forgot where I got 'em, probably stole them from my dad. Aforementioned cons, aforementioned hoodie, haven't shaved, looking slightly ragged due to insomnia. I tied a green bandanna around my neck (cattle rustler, or if you prefer, the Clash) and I'm on a bike and out the door.
And these fuckers all look like me! Shit. Maybe I haven't been flouncing down Queen st. West in awhile. I certainly haven't been to many live shows in awhile. Toronto can be a wonderful place. No, I'm kidding. Right now it's designed to induce maximum despair.
A room full of hardcore kids, drinking friggin Stella Artois??! What is wrong with me? I take a sniff: there is something with seriously wrong with a punk subculture when it smells like any other mass of people in Toronto: vaguely like vanilla.
Fortunately, the girls are all looking very pretty. Probably because they're all in high school. I'm having a Matthew McConaughey in 'Dazed and Confused' moment: "I keep getting older, they stay the same age." Ugh!!! I silently sentence myself to twenty lashes for grossness. Ordering a bottle of Blue is my protest of all things skanky and Artois.
On the review. Is this a review? I think so. If it's a story, I'm getting to the point. Protest The Hero was the first band I heard. (I was late.) They are from Whitby. I think they are all seventeen. Anyway, they were tight and possessed chops. Like, ironic eighties prog-metal chops. Everything was ironic. In between songs, the singer would rally the crowd. "Well, hello Toronto! We hate you all. No, just kidding." He pointed the mic down to some hysterical schoolchum: "You rock! You are sexy! Whoo!!" He responds: "Shut up. No, just kidding." This went on for two decades. At this point in the evening, there is a gaping void in my breast.
Next is Fucked Up. I had heard of them so many times. I never went; to me, the name 'Fucked Up' is evidence of a high school skater-pop band. Not so.
The first thing they do upon hitting the stage is heap scorn on the openers. "I hope nobody mistook that dippy fashionista prog-rock poser shit. That's not hardcore." Wait! I'm being assailed by an angry fat guy with a shaved head! It looks.... yes, I'm sure of it! He is no longer in high school. "Hardcore is about moshing, straightedge, and collecting records... in that order." And they kick into the tightest, sweetest, old-school high energy desperate angry hardcore. And thus was my evening saved and I cracked a most un-punk grin for the remainder of the set. Who knew? Usually I can't stand macho posturing by a guy in a button-down shirt, telling me what his music is supposed to be. And I'm sure that I fit into his definition of 'fashionista', I'm certainly not a member of any scene. But damn... it was beautiful. I felt about as conflicted and refreshed as a feminist who wants to be called 'dirty whore' during coitus...
Fucked Up sound like Youth of Today with crouton-sized chunks of the Germs mixed in... and come off far less ornery in interviews. This little bit I found particularly insightful...
You sing a lot about dehumanization and alienation, what part do you think activism should, or can, play in reconnecting people and improving our lot?

Well i think any activist group who isn't doing that might be a scam. What else is there? I'm not an activist, but reconnecting myself to the things i need to be in tune with is a primary concern. The trouble with activists is that they are trying to fix a system that isn't broken. You know, the global economy, the state, whatever you want to call it - is working perfectly, and gets better at what it was made to do every day. The state doesn't enfranchise people in real communities, or reduce energy use or maximize free time, because that isn't what it is designed to do, and no amount of activism is going to make it that way. Activism shouldn't be about trying to mend perceived holes in the way the system works, but about expanding the holes, and trying to find more. A lot of activists are afraid of violence because its one of those holes thats open, and most upstanding responcible people have a real vested interest in keeping them closed. So to me improving my lot doesn't mean creating fair global trade, but in not needing global trade at all. It doesn't mean improving the minimum wage, but eliminating wages altogether.
Here's a song I adore: Dance of Death.

Cursed are labelled as "Loudest Band in Canada." I didn't find that; I mean, the fillings shook in my jaw, but not that much. Cursed are... Cursed. Wonderful noise. They get compared to Melvins, to Mastodon, to His Hero Is Gone, to Discharge... Lyrics are about funerals and Bloody Mary so I guess this counts as metal. Shit! But you know what? The singer cites Rimbaud and Henry Miller on their website, so I guess I get a free pass. Not a metalhead. Not a metalhead. Phew.
It was almost anticlimactic after Fucked Up. Plus I didn't know much of their material, and so it got lost in the general howl of things. I can't find their website right now, so no mp3 for you.

One final note:
It isn't even funny how bad I have the Fear right now.
Converge, Terror, Cursed, Mare Canadian Tour
10/5: Toronto, ON @ Opera House.
Oh shit. Oh lordy. Hang on to your fillings and/or orfices.

3 Comments:

At 6:39 p.m., Blogger Robert said...

yeah, but Neurosis made it ok for metal-heads to be pretentious, so...sorry, man...the metal-head tag isnt shaken yet...but that's ok, there's nothing wrong with that...i was listening to Brutal Truth this morning, so if u think being a metal-head is sad, how about being an ageing metal-head...i deal, though


:)

 
At 11:57 p.m., Blogger eric said...

oh... well, if it's okay to be pretentious.... :) :) :)

oh, and it isn't like aging punks are all that attractive... i'm thinking to the last time i saw bunchafuckinggoofs and the singer was insulting the crowd, waving a liquor bottle around, calling us "fakes"... then i saw him in kensington market borrowing $300 from the guy who runs that cluttered electronics store. good times.

 
At 6:24 p.m., Anonymous mike said...

i suppose you think he should've been robbing the dude? :)

that's a great quote from the Fucked Up guy, too.

 

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