Blastitude reviews a small dump from
best fucking band on the planet" (or is it "the best
band on the fucking planet," can't remember) put out their
first full-length. You might not think 26 minutes constitutes
a full-length, but believe me, it does with Sightings. With
something this blasting and red-zoned, a freakin' 7-inch is a
full-length. 26 minutes is like a box set. How blasting and red-zoned?
Well, it's like they plug a contact mic into a Marshall stack
and stick it on a handful of electric wires, then rip the wires
out of the wall and then, while they're showering sparks all over, the drummer kicks in with a beat at just the right time
so that the whole mess can be a song. It's also a song because one guy gibbers along with
vocals that sound like Crocus Behemoth after drinking 12 screwdrivers.
They lurch and chest-punch and repeat. They know how to get
into a groove, too, which makes me wonder...just when did Jon Spencer finally take his
Blues Explosion on home, three, four, five
BOLT CD (LOAD)
here's the reissue of the first Lightning Bolt album. I was way
on top of this back in '99 or whenever thanks to listening to
DJ Tom Smith on WFMU
via the internet. The very next day I mail-ordered
the album directly from Load (excellent service, by the way) and
couldn't believe my ears. It was like The Melvins if they were
possibly even more heavy and, what's more, could power-groove
their asses off for a change instead of all that stop-start bullshit.
I felt like no one
in Lincoln, NE had heard them but me, which was probably true.
I wanted all kinds of people to hear it. That week I played it
on my radio show and one of my I've-heard-it-all type friends
called up. "Who the hell is Lightning Bolt??" "They're
from Rhode Island. It's two guys, a bassist and a drummer."
There was a long pause. "You don't like it?" I wondered.
"No, I....I don't know! I don't understand!" I dubbed
the whole album for another guy, a coworker who thought Godhead
Silo were impressive. He was also heavily into The Melvins and
King Crimson, and, thanks to Mike Patton, he was starting to figure
out who Merzbow was -- you know, all the gateway artists -- so
I figured Lightning Bolt would be the perfect band to annihilate
90% of his CD collection. I guess he never really did tell me
what he thought of it, which makes sense; he was young, and I
don't think he was ready to die.
But you, on the other
hand, if you've been listening to your daily Andrew W.K. (keeps
the doctor away), know that you had better get ready to die, and
trust me, there is no better way to go than by listening to the
first Lightning Bolt CD. What's more, there's unreleased bonus
material on this reissue! Not only do you get the greatest song
ever, "Into the Valley of the Whirling Knives," and
that one guy saying the whole "Just because you think everybody
is into the alternative charts..." rap in crystal-clear digital
hi-fi, you also get two bonus tracks, "Zone" and "And
Beyond." "Zone" takes the "alternative charts"
soundbite and does crazy cut-ups with it, as well as incorporating
all sorts of other strange field recordings, such as the band
practicing. Oh yeah, and it's like 32 minutes long. Consider this
the Arc to the regular LP's Weld. "And Beyond"
is actually another live 15-minute jam like the ones that made
it onto the LP. This one is different, though; it has more vocals,
for one thing, and it also shows the band trying out some different
'moods.' The first half has a pulsing 'dark' feel that sounds
a lot like Sightings, and the second half has a pulsing 'light'
feel that sounds a lot like the...Ramones! Good bonus tracks!
RECOVERY PROJECT: Bolides Over Basra CD
thought Outkast's "Bombs Over Baghdad" was intense,
this is an entire No Wave concept album about the Middle East.
You might think they're being goofy and politically incorrect
-- a lot of the Arab characters in the libretto are performed
with Darth Vader-like evil vocoder voices -- but the lyrics are
well-written and well-informed, if not outright poetic. At least
according to the lyric sheet, they are -- it's hard to understand
them as sung, due to the general No Wave weirdness of the vocal
approach. Here's two examples of the lyrics: from "Working
for the Mossad," "Plant a bomb in the calm of the fronds
of a palm/Hop a cab to the red eye to Dar Es Salaam/Giza to Gaza
to Derna to Dubai/You're a stranger at the airport with a twinkle
in the eye," and the entire text of "Rabble, Wretches,
and Lepers," which reads "A man in Amman on a road with
no name/Alone, drunk and in the wrong lane/Wretches in the courtyard,
rabble in the street/A leper sleeps in a TV dish with maggots
on his feet." See what I mean?
As for the music, Men's Recovery
Project, whom I've never heard before, should really play in Chicago
sometime. They've been doing this kind of stuff since at least
1996 (when these recordings commenced), and nowadays at the Fireside
it seems like there's a different band every week doing crap a
lot like this but not near as well. (I mean, they all have great
masks, but other than that...) It's a keyboard-driven sound, but
not overly quirky, with a pushing, rocking ominousness that gives
it that futuristic wasteland edge which is perfect for lyrics
about desert peoples sleeping in TV dishes. There's a member of
Six Finger Satellite on Bolides Over Basra, and you can
hear that band's nervous kick driving things. I don't know much
about the other people, except apparently there's a Rah Brah in
here and Neil Burke is a well-known person (he's in Danse Asshole
anyway) and perhaps the founder of the group.
As an aside, I think the
one thing that keeps me from totally falling for this whole avant-tarde
scene is the quirkiness. I could be wrong, but I think these acts
are stuck in the giant shadow cast by (the eyeball heads of) The
Residents. The no wave scene talks about "rocking" a
lot, but The Residents were not a rock band. How can you be rockin'
when all your keyboard melodies are so damn quirky? (Yeah, I know,
there's exceptions to every rule...in this case it's Neon Hunk,
who most definitely rock in a way that actually lives up to the
masks they wear, which are the very best on the scene.) The Residents
may have been sonically amazing, but they were so emphatic about
removing all blues-rock/bar-band overtones from their music that
they went too far in the other direction, thus diluting an otherwise
raw strain of music with thespian aspirations. That was back in
the 70s, but to this very day so many electro & no wave bands
sound samey and affected because of it. Maybe it's because I was
raised Christian, but I just can't help think of these musical
differences in dichotomous terms, as Quirk vs. Soul, and I'm learning
that I gravitate towards the Soul side of things, because I'm
just a player like that. For example, let's see where the Chicago
OOPS! lineup sits. Wolf Eyes: Soul. Grand Ulena: Quirk. Rah Brahs:
Quirk. Erase Errata: Quirky in the Rough Trade kind of way, meaning
it's danceable enough to count as Soul, and the the crazily charismatic
talk-singing of their singer makes it Soul all the way. Flying
Luttenbachers: hmm, definitely more Quirk than Soul, but Soul
does enter into it for me somewhat with the whole 'superhuman
endurance' aspect of their shows. Arab on Radar: Tough one, eh?
Quirk wins, but you can't deny that there's some seriously singular
Soul coming off the stage too. Lightning Bolt: Soul, baby. The
Locust: Quirk. Quirk wins 5-3. All the screaming bugs me too.
Can't anyone in this scene actually sing? Sure, the music is freaked-out,
sick, and convoluted, but why do all the vocalists feel like they
have to catch up to it? Can't anyone try to subvert the subversion?
For a scene dedicated to providing a contrast to the norm, you'd
think they'd experiment with contrasting themselves a little more.
But they really never do. Men's Recovery Project do.
Urge to Kill CD (LOAD)
10 years ago this would've been on Amphetamine Reptile. If so,
it would've been one of their very best records. This dirty wall-of-noise
Funhouse-rock would've fit on that label, but from the
stunning singing and subject matter, right down to the cover art,
no AmRep act ever did get this coldly true-crime. The Swedish-accented
lyrics can be surprisingly easy to understand, exploring the mind
of a homicidal psychopath while the band grinds away. "I'm
a sick fuck! I live to hate whores!" he agonizes in "Slutmaster,"
and in "Driving Through Leeds" he describes a day in
the life: "Smashed her head with my hammer/Screwdriver through
her chest/Blood on the seats," and then the kicker after
the gore, "Tired, so tired," an ever so slight poetic
twist, the kind of thing that makes a band not just good, but
also NEW. The Brainbombs are a new angle indeed on the same sturdy
Load Records manifesto, which is the Revenge of the Nerds. Bad-ass
rock music without all the chain-wallet mechanic chic.
GANKSTUH RAPPUHS MC'S (WID GHATZ): Wake Up and Smell the Piss
a couple moons ago there was a brief discussion about rap group
the Hawd Gankstuh Rappuhs MC's (Wid Ghatz) on the WHPK rock format
list. Should I even call them a rap group? That was kind of what
the discussion was about. One debator was just refusing all white
hipster rap on principle. The other DJ didn't really give a shit
if the Hard Gankstuhs were rap or not, because he liked them.
That's more my tack, and now that I've actually heard the band,
I don't think they intend to be 'real' rap music at all anyway.
Even if that was their plan to start with, this is the most disdainfully
non-rap rap music I've ever heard, more like some sort of jivey
lumbering electronic rant-rock. The white boys in Your Lord &
The Infinite Soul Tribe may be ludicrous (see next page), but
they're still playing it straight compared to these freaks. The
only things that keep the 'rap' tag appropriate is that 1. on
some tracks, they ably use old-school Bronx beats and fat basslines,
and 2. the vocals, whether they're rapping, ranting, or just plain
babbling, are total jive-talk. Honky jive maybe, but jive nonetheless.
The good news is that the songs and rants are kept short, and
with almost each new track the band pushes their beats/backings
into more creative corners, such as the slammin' frequency overload
of the bassline on Track 11, "Monster Manual." What's
more, the track starts with an actual hip-hop gangsta skit, recorded
with a fidelity so much lower than the average hi-fi hip hop skit,
that it'll have you thinking more of Jack Smith and John Waters
movies than Prince Paul and Dr. Dre. Somehow, "Monster Manual"
ends up being a 10 minute long 'posse cut' that amazingly doesn't
overstay its welcome. They keep pulling goofy-ass voices out of
their bag of tricks, like having a really nerdy tinkerbell voice
deliver bad-ass disses, and having other verses delivered by a
ridiculous Cookie Monster character. I believe it's Barkley, from
Barkley's Barnyard Critters, who appear courtesy of Bulb Records.
(I'm confused too.) MC Paul Barman has a turn at the mic too,
uncredited, according to fellow listener Colby Starck. Anyway,
these guys are ridiculous, and the first hipster hip-hop I've
heard that truly reminds me of Baltimore's apparently on-hiatus
The Dogg & Pony Show (possibly the best live show I've ever
seen -- okay, top five). And I can't go without mentioning the
last track, "The Bong (Get In The)," which is a parody
of Cypress Hill. Of course it's hilarious, a 'goofy album closer'
in the great tradition of (and even funnier than) "Boogie
In Your Butt," the 'goofy album closer' of Eddie Murphy's
BOLT: Power of Salad & Milkshakes VHS/DVD (LOAD)
is a something like a defining moment, a well-done documentary
about a band that really deserves it. In fact, it's almost too
well done -- I had already seen Lightning Bolt three times before
watching this, and now that what they do is preserved on video,
I feel like all their secrets and surprises have been permanently
revealed, and going to a Lightning Bolt show won't be the same
again. Oh well, it was bound to happen, and Power of Salad
is still a great document of the scope of what these guys do,
taking the physicality of rock and metal to superhuman extremes
while inspiring giant 'group hugs' at live shows throughout the
country. (A good 15 or 20 different shows are excerpted within
the 60-minute running time.)
The interviews are good too,
with both Brians describing what they bring to the band in a nutshell.
Bassist Brian Gibson explains how he's spent years working on
his bass rig and has finally achieved a distortion tone so "perfect"
that he can play anything -- any notes, any sounds -- and have
them automatically sound good. (Interestingly, it turns out to
be the same tone Cliff Burton got on "Anesthesia (Pulling
Teeth).") Drummer Brian Chippendale, also a notable visual
artist, says he plays drums like he draws. In both cases, he feels
the need to cover all available space. I feel like I'm just rewriting
Liz Armstrong's appreciation in the Chicago
Reader here, right down to her spot-on Cliff Burton comparison.
She's right; Lightning Bolt's whole mission could be described
as remaking Kill 'em All as one non-stop performance of
"Anesthesia (Pulling Teeth)." Gibson certainly knows
his way around a heavy-metal triad, a la Burton, Maiden, Lizzy,
If you'd like
to pick up your first Lighting Bolt album, and don't know which
one to get, I think this VHS/DVD would be just as good of a place
to start. It's got just as much music, and, as I said, it gives
the added bonus of actually capturing the feeling these guys create
in a live venue. One priceless segment where the band plays in
Lubbock, Texas demonstrates just how dedicated they are to what
they do. Though they often play to large crowds, in Lubbock they
have to set up in someone's kitchen in order to play for just
9 or 10 locals, most of whom didn't seem to know anything about
the band. These locals would be described by your average snob
as "scary" or "redneck," and there is a striking
tension in the scenes of them setting up, but of course, their
music knows no class distinction, which is apparent as soon as
they start playing. The band comes off as downright brave, and
possessors of a music that really can cross over perceived boundaries.
It's all right here on celluloid; kudos to filmmakers Nick Noe
and Peter Glantz.
next: the regular record review section begins