I was a bit of a “wet blanket” when it came to the overwrought noise bands of the 2003-2006 era. I had a really good time savaging some of them on my then-blog Agony Shorthand.
Time and distance has actually proven me to be a little too much of a wilting violet when it came to some of this stuff, and there’s no reason, other than “fun”, to have taken the proverbial piss out of it as much as I did. So let’s just call it fun, and leave it at that – although I still think this stuff is horrific.
Here are 3 reviews from 2003-06:
BURMESE : “MEN” CD…..
Just found out over the weekend that this is the best band in San Francisco, according to one SF Bay Guardian tastemaker. God help us all. The sort of all-shlock/no action noise BURMESE and their pals must think is pretty far out & dangerous is the same numbskull, junior league hate rock that Peter Davis was flogging in Your Flesh aeons ago.
Any nihilistic nitwit can string together the words “cunt”, “rape” and “ass” and scream about it over an unthinking din, but it takes the least bit of soul or subtlety to make it even remotely interesting. Burmese have neither – it’s just pummel, pummel, pummel, and that godawful high-pitched, muffled male screaming that was passe & played out 20-some-odd years ago. I’d rather go on a weeklong road trip with a busload of Christian kids than be forced to watch these dangerous alterna-rockers grimace, mug & writhe all over a tiny stage. Who’s really falling for this shit? Not you?
NAUTICAL ALMANAC : “ROOTING FOR THE MICROBES” CD…..
Give Ben at Load Records credit. Despite my having savaged a couple of his bands on this very site (while effusing mightily about some others), he keeps sending me young noisemaking lambs to bring to slaughter. He pointedly said in an e-mail, “I’m going to be sending you some new CDs – some of it barely even music”.
Load are at the forefront of this sort of thing: heavy, shape-shifting noise rock, weirdo improvisational searching, bleeping & chirping laptop punk, and a dash of bombastic ST. VITUS-style metal thrown in for shits & giggles. Before NAUTICAL ALMANAC, it was the HAIR POLICE that struck me as Load’s most pointless act, but I think even the HP are blitzkrieging rock and roll stormtroopers compared to the inane Nautical Almanac. (and keep in mind, this is a record label I admire, what with Lightning Bolt, Viki, Noxagt and Sightings all on the roster). “Barely even music”? Way too kind.
I’ve said my piece before about the new hippy dip trip, but these guys are the living embodiment of what happens when kids weaned on punk and indie music get bored and look backward to make mistakes even worse than their parents. Go to their website and check out their deliberately spelling-challenged manifestos, you’ll see what I’m talking about. They’re not quite on the level of a Genesis P-Orridge verbal blubbering, but they’re trying so hard. It’s sooooo cute!
And instead of long stoned guitar jams, Nautical Almanac create the sort of random plugged-in oscillator sounds that anyone drunkenly tripping over the same set of electronics would make as their legs got violently tangled in the wiring & stands. No sir, it’s not even close to music. You simply cannot convince me that there are people who will sit and listen to this at home without full knowledge that they’re being ironic in doing so. Even with a 5-foot bong propped in the middle of the room. Even with a pile of hallucinogenics on the coffee table. Even if they were already hopped up on goofballs. It ain’t happening, folks.
What gets me is that in pitching a fake fit of apoplexy about the band, I’m playing right into their brazen modern hippie challenge. These guys want to throw down the gauntlet and start the revolution, the one after which Nautical Almanac “will take these reclaimed bones and build upon our new communities and traditions”. OK, you’re on. Rockers vs. heads, let’s bring the war home!
HAIR POLICE : “MORTUARY SERVANTS / RARE ANIMALS” 45…..
First off, HAIR POLICE is an outstanding name for a band. Now that that’s out of the way, there’s this ridiculous “noise shit as genius” 45, which is essentially a bunch of electronic oscillator farting, out of synch drumming and formless, haphazard sound. It’s really, really difficult for me to get my head around the fact that people discuss, trade, collect and treasure this stuff.
Around the time Bananafish and Opprobrium magazines began peaking with the chattering classes (roughly the mid 1990s), it finally hit home to me: the actual records produced by the boutique noise collector underground, pretty much to a disc, just flat-out blow. At least until someone plays me one that doesn’t! I imagine the scene continues to be propped up by disaffected punk rockers and former indie nerds in search of the most collectable and homemade records imaginable. I can even understand the draw somewhat, but the thought of an intelligent human being, possessed with free will, actually playing a Hair Police or a Merzbow 45 repeatedly – spinning it for friends, putting it on compilation CD-Rs for potential girlfriends, that sort of thing – just boggles the proverbial mind.
The chasm between true, inventive noise-shapers like LIGHTNING BOLT and farting charlatans like the Hair Police is vast, but you’d never know it by the unqualified raves
given to anyone who glues wood chips to their pressing-of-50 boutique
noise 45 and craps onto a mic for 3 minutes.
probably did more to further this mindset than anyone, by virtue of
Seymour Glass’ excellent writing skills & sense of humor, luring
many of the disaffected into smug noise collecting with the siren song
of obscurity and insider cred. I think I really lost my faith in the
noise fanzine nation when I saw bands like LIQUOR BALL garner waves of
euphoria and hype from this crew, when the band’s m.o. was to never
practice and to get supremely baked and/or loaded before recording a
batch of drunken, poorly-mixed improv (and no slight on those guys
personally – they knew and maintained all along that it was all a total
Yet because it was so mysterious, so weird (no song titles!
Limited pressings! Bizarre drawings on the sleeves!), you’d have thought
from some reviews that people actually listened to it more than once.
No one would really do that, right? Is it way too late to sound the
alarm? Almost definitely. I should have spoken up sooner!! Sorry that
the Hair Police, they of the cool band name, had to be my guinea pigs
for this unformed but deeply-felt rant.