Monday, October 10, 2011

Growers vs. Showers

There’s a certain cult that springs up around first albums. I’ve often heard people say first albums are the truest example of a band’s musical ambitions, freed from any contract-stipulated deadlines and unhindered by any kind of overt commercial taint. It’s an especially common perception (in my experience) in punk and grind circles where bands are driven as much by youthful bravado as they are by musical acumen.
However, I have noticed that if you plunk any number of grindily minded people in a room (n= >1) and set them talking about their favorite albums, within five minutes a familiar debate will ensue: punk vs. precision. Or put in other terms, growers vs. showers. It's the dividing line between people's preferences and expectations, whether they respond to raw energy and can overlook instrument proficiency or whether they get an intellectual jolt from something more complex and pinpoint.
Showers are the kinds of bands that pretty much lay out all they have to offer within an album or two. They may continue to crank out awesome records, but you don’t go into them expecting to have your musical outlook overturned. Has Agathocles, despite squatting in the studio for lack of an apartment [citation needed], shown any kind of musical growth for all their million albums? Hell, they’re the poster children for the punk side of grind because depending on membership and relative sobriety, it sometimes sounds as though the band is in a desperate fight to avoid total collapse before the end of the song.
Flipside are the growers, the bands, generally more technically gifted, who take a few albums to hit their groove and generally flourish later in life. Brutal Truth were weird and adventurous right out of the box, but they pushed themselves even further straight through what I consider to be their best album, Sounds of the Animal Kingdom. While Brutal Truth may have recycled a few of their prior excursions on Evolution Through Revolution, after a decade hiatus, the band is still not taking the easy route.
Obviously, it's a not a bright line division between growers and showers. Where do Nasum fit? The band obviously grew throughout their career but without necessarily deviating or expanding their trademark sound. Rather, it was a subtle refinement of their strengths. Every nuance of albums like Helvete and Human 2.0 were clearly plotted out. Ditto Norwegian solo maniac Papirmollen. Based on his Parlamentarisk Sodomi material, I would have pegged the guy as a shower because he crusted up old Terrorizer and took it out for a few more laps around the block. But then comes PSUDOKU, which suggests the sky (literally) is the limit for his space grind talents.
Taking these overbroad categories, I'm more curious what they say about our experiences and expectations as a listeners. Music is not a passive experience. What we bring to it is just as important as what bands put on stage or set to tape. I cringe when I hear bands say they don't like to discuss their lyrics because they let the listener draw their own interpretation.I think that's a cheap cop out. However, I will concede there's a certain truth to it. Our experiences and emotional states can drastically influence how we perceive music. My mood is going to be a huge determinant in deciding between Asterisk*'s cerebral philosophy grind or Looking for an Answer's old style beatings. Do I want to relax with Wormrot's 21st Century take on Repulsion or am I prepared to expend a little more energy and wrap my mind around Antigama's fifth dimensional shenanigans.
Am I completely off base here? Do you prefer punk or precision? Are you a grower or a shower? Or, like me, just a grind slut?


Alex Layzell said...

Complete Grind whore here, but when push comes to shove I will take a grower. Growers highlight both skill and creativity which is what pushes music forward. Grind was born from the growers, people who played and listened to hardcore and metal wanted to push not only themselves but the limits of music.

Bill Willingham IV, Esquire said...

Yeah, I'm also workin' the corner.

Growers probably stay with me more, but my favorites are often somewhere in the middle. Brutal Truth, for example, can still put an oldschool beating on you in between jazzy weirdoffs. Nasum could get you all choked up and misty-eyed and then make you hulk out.

Wormrot are one of those bands I think are actually doing way more with the rudimentary tools they use than pure traditionalists. I think there's some real creativity and abandon lurking in what appears to be orthodox cloth. I don't know exactly why I think that, but I do.

DRJones said...

i like trash-infused crust. it's a 25 year old idea that still sounds brilliant. superfunhappyslide, gride, plf - only the language and the emotional landscape changes. thrash-infused crust tempered by local variables.

side notes:
1- psodoku is pxsx with the distortion knob turned down. same "thematic riff", same riff progression, same vocals. no need to change the name.
2- wormrot was a grower between dead and abuse but a shower on dirge. i wonder how dirge would sound if earache gave then an extra year to put their soul into it.
3- lyrics are shit anyway - why punish the writer:

Anonymous said...

Little bit of Column A, little bit of Column B, but in general I think I'm a grower. By way of example, pick your favorite Jon Chang band. I'll take the second album over the first in each case, and he's batting 1.000 on the lone third album. Each one refines what came before it, and amplifies what's already awesome.

Unknown said...

I think I sway towards showers as a general rule, maybe partially because I want to see bands live and in that element you kind of want to impress people. Or maybe I'm being vain. There are always examples though. Brutal Truth, like you mentioned, 324 is another good one. Maybe 80/20?

Survivalist said...

it's interesting you mention Looking for an Answer because i seem to remember their earlier material (one guy and a drum machine with occasional reggae outbursts) not being nearly as developed as their current sound is

VII said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
VII said...

I enjoy raw, loose, punk grind and I enjoy forward thinking, "cerebral" grind too. Just depends on the mood I'm in I guess. I think it's a comfort zone thing for bands too, I don't think a band like Agathocles would feel right trying to write Discordance Axis style grind.

Perpetual Strife said...

1.i like phallic jokes
2. Napalm Death sucks after their second "full length"
3.Pig Destroyer will never be as good as their first album
4. DxAx is one of the few punk/grindcore bands that got better as time went on.
5.Grindcore can become so insipid that sometimes that beginning spark is the most important thing. Look at all the bands that have outlasted themselves.

Full Metal Attorney said...

More of a metalhead here, but I think I tend to prefer growers. Just this year, Profound Lore alone has released many great second/third/+ albums from bands that were not that great before, e.g. SubRosa, Grayceon, A Storm of Light, etc. I'm a Master of Puppets guy more than a Kill 'Em All guy. There's definitely a lot to be said for killer, raw debuts, but most of the greatest bands out there got better in their mid- to late-periods (even if some of them did go downhill further on). Death, Opeth, and Mastodon are examples that spring to my mind. There are exceptions, and I'd have a hard time picking between Danzig and How the Gods Kill, but that's where I land.

Perpetual Strife said...

" I'd have a hard time picking between Danzig and How the Gods Kill, but that's where I land."

Really? REALLY!?

Danzig's better.

and for metallica, Master of Puppets feels like it never ends, which is not a fun feeling. Their first two albums are great, as is Ride the Lighting slowed down (i refer to this as Sludgetallica and I listen to it far more than Mettalica). They're not a band to bring up in this discussion.

Andrew Childers said...

i love ride the lightening, probably my third favorite thrash record behind sepultura's arise/beneath the remains, but i'm with strife here. their albums are too. damn. long. jeebus. 8 minute songs, hour long records. that's just too much.

Full Metal Attorney said...

Yeah . . . forgot this blog focuses on grind. So no Evoken for you guys.

Andrew Childers said...

oh i don't know, people seemed to enjoy the all doom-stravaganza

Perpetual Strife said...


Full Metal Attorney said...

Corrupted is good--sometimes. You have to be in the right mood.