Monday, November 25, 2013

Punk Rock Docs

One of my pet peeves is how punks are often portrayed in popular culture. Too often they’re the lunkhead with the ridiculous clothes and hair who is treated like a running punchline. The image of the idiot punk is so ingrained that they’re almost automatically assumed to be falling down drunks who are little more than comic relief devoid of personality or prospects whenever they pop up. In my experience, it’s the direct opposite. Punks are the musical smart asses: the intelligent kid in the back of the room who can do the work but just doesn’t take it seriously. It takes a keen mind to zero in on society’s myriad failures in a way that’s hilarious, excoriating and trenchant all at once.
But some punks have taken that a step further by putting their diplomas where their mouths are, earning some serious academic accolades outside of the mosh pit.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Freaks on Parade: Grindcore Still Puts a (Glasgow) Smile on Who’s My Saviour’s Faces

The term “grindcore” probably evokes a pretty specific set of characteristics: blastbeats, screams, a punk core, indecipherable screaming, micro songs, incoherent politics. Who’s My Saviour don’t want you to dwell on any of that when you encounter their crawling chaos of whirlwind sound. They cop to the grindcore tag as the best fit for their unique racket. They just don’t want to be limited by your crabbed definitions. Grindcore is a much broader term in Who’s My Saviour’s world than most people will allow.
“In its roots, grindcore wasn't that limited genre like it is today. It wasn't even meant as a genre but more like a melting pot for everything which didn't fit into existing genres,” guitarist Stephan “Hazy” Haase said. “Today when you're speaking of grindcore, people think of bad musicians playing ridiculous fast songs with mainly blastbeats, crying evil lyrics, that no one understands at all because 90 percent of the bands in the scene fit into that scheme. We try to get this thing more open for new influences. No fuckin limits!”
So the German trio brings a whole host of outside sounds to Who’s My Saviour and the result is a masterful mix of emotionally charged grind full of individually memorable songs with actual riffs that have a definite starting point and consciously evolve and mutate before the end. In a sea of 30 second bursts of repetitive riffs and single shot ideas, Who’s My Saviour are a verdant island of abundant musical fecundity.
“In fact WMS has always been meant to be a bit different from classic grind bands,” Hazy said. “We are all listening to many different kinds of music apart from grindcore metal stuff. According to that, we wish to bring many different aspects to our music to keep it interesting for ourselves and the listener.”

You March

A wall of sickness... and amps

It’s been six years since Who’s My Saviour graced us with the under the radar grindcore masterpiece Glasgow Smile, but the trio, rounded out by bassist Andy Colosser and new drummer Peat (who replaces the departed Pierre Bernhardt,) roared back in fine fettle with the triumphant Wall of Sickness. It’s a ripped from the headlines missive from the underclass who got stuck with the check when the too big to fail bankers wafted away on golden parachutes courtesy of the public treasury. Hazy said Who’s My Saviour have always had a political edge buried under their façade of intricately spiraling music, but this time out the anger is closer to the surface. It’s all kicked off by an exquisite sample of Massachusetts Rep. Michael Capuano ripping into the architects of the recent global financial meltdown. It’s the perfect mood setter for the revolutionary rabble rousing to come.
“We were always interested in politics and what's happening in the world. Maybe it is a bit more obvious because of the samples we used on Wall of Sickness, but in general you won't recognize a big difference between both records, if you check the lyrics,” Hazy said. “Of course we kind of react to the financial crisis and its consequences. Ordinary people have to pay the banks while the banks don´t have to fear any restrictions. So the sample of Mike Capuano was just perfect to describe the big gap between the banks and those who have to refinance the bailout. You can really hear that he is totally pissed and that this is what most people think. Check the song ‘This World Belongs to Us’. This is what we think about the situation.”
While Who’s My Saviour say the music always comes first, they’ve shown an incredibly deft hand with samples. Glasgow Smile closes out with one of my favorite ever songs, “Save Your Breath,” which wraps a sinuous stoner riff around a perfectly placed sample borrowed from the film 2001. It’s all the more impressive when I learned the song was a last minute addition to the album and a bit of a happy accident.
“Funny fact about ‘Save Your Breath’. We wrote that song in about 15 minutes,” Hazy said. “We came to the point that we just need one more song and it should be plain simple. After recording that song, we already had in mind that we want to use this particular sample from 2001 - A Space Odyssey from Stanley Kubrick and it worked out pretty good.”
Who’s My Saviour pulled the same trick on Wall of Sickness with closing track “Weedeater,” which also wraps itself around a sample to punctuate the catharsis the album had slowly built toward.
“It was pretty much clear that ‘Weedeater’ had to be the last song, because for us it was the perfect solution to leave the listener with a feeling of quite unwellness,” Hazy said.

This World Belongs to Us

Weedeaters pause the grind for a slice.
I had already mentally reconciled myself to Who’s My Saviour being that perfect one album wonder before Wall of Sickness appeared almost out of nowhere. It was actually intended to be the band’s farewell statement, but a funny thing happened on the way to the funeral.
All of the members of Who’s My Saviour have been pulled in myriad musical directions over the last decade. Hazy previously did time in Cyness while Colosser still pulls double duty in Wojczech. Drummer Bernhardt eventually reached the point where he had decided to devote himself full time to his other project Bad Luck Rides on Wheels. Who’s My Saviour thought they had reached the end of their road.
“We lost the ‘battle ‘, but we are still friends and we understand the situation he was in,” Hazy said. “Andy and Pierre are even sharing an apartment. He also recorded Wall of Sickness, played the drums and did the mixing job along with our new drummer Peat. Everything is fine and change is still something good. We decided to record these songs after Pierre told us that he´s going to quit the band. We didn't even think about playing with a new drummer because it is hard to find a guy playing drums like he did. And then all of a sudden Peat fell from heaven.”
So that’s how Who’s My Saviour ended up answering these questions from the road on their recent European tour as they look forward to tackling South America in early 2014 with friends Wojczech. It’s a tour that will force Colosser to double shift by playing bass and singing for both bands.
“Andy has been playing with Wojczech and WMS for over a decade now and we always played shows and tours together,” Hazy said.  “He is used to do[ing] this although it is always a tough job, especially doing vocals twice a show. I will train that bastard up so he will be in shape for the Brazil attack.”

Thursday, November 14, 2013

G&P Review: Limbs Bin

Limbs Bin
Summertime Blues
Grindcore Karaoke

Limbs Bin make only one mistake on Summertime Blues, but it’s a bit akin to booking your kids for a relaxing August getaway at Camp Crystal Lake. I have a congenital hole in my soul that can only be filled by insane drum machine grind, but the gaps between songs on Summertime Blues are just fucking massive. Just as I’m getting into a song like the excellent “Le Samourai” (somebody has impeccable taste in French gangster films), I slam into the brick wall of silence. I'm waiting four or five seconds for the next hammer to fall. Summertime Blues is only 11 minutes but the lag makes it feel twice as long sometimes.
But I do my best to overlook that because Limbs Bin make very choice drum machine-driven grind madness. It’s somewhere between the earliest Gigantic Brain material and Agoraphobic Nosebleed at their most cybernetically aggressive. The individual songs are fantastic and the drum machine is one of the best sounding I’ve ever heard. The drums just slam into your chest with a palpable force. At its best Limbs Bin just about leaves you gasping for breath from concussive force.
But grind is an apex predator that has to constantly keep moving in search of prey. Lag is its only known rival. If Limbs Bin could go back and retroactively excise the between song gaps on Summertime Blues, they would have a near flawless record on their hands. While my short attention span usually can’t handle a few seconds between songs, the individual tunes Limbs Bin have wired together from broken machinery and volcanic bile are strong enough on an individual basis that I still keep coming back for more.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Good Reads: Eat the Worm

The book: Dune by Frank Herbert

For all its accolades, Dune, in my opinion, epitomizes the difference between writing and storytelling. Frank Herbert thought up an amazing story, fascinating characters and a brilliantly detailed world. Unfortunately, the he was really deficient when it comes to the mechanics of writing. The point of view leaps from person to person every other paragraph and, given the immensely detailed universe and thick political intrigue, characters are left to narrate large blocks of the plot in droning masses of dialogue. That said, who wouldn’t want to ride a fucking sand worm? Solve math problems with a mentat? Or watch a spiced-up Guilt steersman pilot an interstellar freighter? Fear (of terrible writing) is the mindkiller.

A representative passage:
Aloud, he said: “You speak of a place where you cannot enter? This place which the Reverend Mother cannot face, show it to me.”
She shook her head, terrified by the very thought.
“Show it to me!” he commanded.
But she could not escape him. Bludgeoned by the terrible force of him, she closed her eyes and focused inward—the direction-that-is-dark.
Darkness and a wind out of nowhere.

Through it all threaded the realization that her son was the Kwisatz Haderach, the one who could be many places at once. He was the fact out of the Bene Gesserit dream. And the face gave her no peace.

The album: Mourning the Unknown by Sayyadina

Sayyadina take their name from the caste of Fremen priestesses in Dune, so naturally their music is intrinsically linked to the novel in my mind. It doesn’t hurt that the Swedes aren’t afraid to bust out of grindcore’s narrow gore vs. politics lyrical confines and spread their philosophical wings a bit more, opining on life and our place in it. While Mourning the Unknown couches many of its metaphors in the chill of winter and the creak of ice, it’s not too hard a notion to transplant their lyrical isolation to the clean-swept sands of Arrakis.

A representative song: “Stolen Identity.”

Like a lot of messianic literature, Dune struggles with the nature of fate, identity and the weight of people’s expectations and desire to bend power to their own ends. Sayyadina ably wrestle with the same themes on “Stolen Identity,” the excellent lead off track from Mourning the Unknown.

Stolen identity
You took it all from me
Obsessed with violence
Obsessed with hate
Never thinking
Before it’s too late
Now all that I can see
Is revenge, finally
Hatred and violence
Controlling a fat
Never thinking
Before it’s too late
Stolen identity
You took it all from me

Friday, November 8, 2013

High Priests of the Death Church: A Rudimentary Peni Retrospective

Nat informed me that “punk is not fashion, it’s an attitude.” I have heard this somewhere before. I must say I am relieved that both he and Greg take this view and will not be resorting to war-zone dress sense of many punks. Nat gleefully described the “corpse of punk” as having no life in it whatsoever, and it was this decayed grandeur of a fallen subculture which had so attracted him.
Nick Blinko
The Primal Screamer

Rudimentary Peni did not revolutionize punk rock. At least not in the sense that the band boasts a wave of imitators intent on stealing any hint of the English band’s psychologically unstable glamour and passing it off as their own. The trio of guitarist/vocalist/visionary Nick Blinko, bassist Grant Matthews and drummer Jon Greville is just too idiosyncratic and hermetic for such easy imitation and commoditization.
But what the band has accomplished over its 30 year run is unrivaled in the annals of punk. When too many other punks celebrate their semi-centennial birthdays with sad trips around the nostalgic circuit (is there anything more pitifully un-punk than the very existence of such a nostalgia circuit?) or filing lawsuits against former friends, Rudimentary Peni unexpectedly pop back up a couple times a decade to drop yet another immaculate EP’s worth of new material that builds on the morbid visions they first laid out in 1981 without recourse to rehashing their (wilted) salad days.
Unique among the restless waves of politically-minded crust punks that roamed England in the early 1980s, Rudimentary Peni, while certainly political, filtered their diatribes through Blinko’s nightmarish insights and intricate artwork to set themselves well outside the circle of their peers. Rudimentary Peni songs, practically from the very outset, were psychologically rich meditations on death, decay, social oppression and mental upheaval that resonated far beyond the glut of bands who just tried to provoke and shock with cheap frights.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Good Reads: Ewige Blumenkraft!

The book: The Illuminatus! Trilogy

Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson put the voodoo into economics with their occult libertarian opus The Illuminatus! Trilogy, which blends together just enough fractured history, complete bullshit, libertarian broadsides and kinky sex to be confuzzle and amaze the most burned out acid casualty from the ’60s and anyone else with a biting sense of humor. Robert and Robert’s scifi whatsis touchstone is a mordant mix of spy shlock, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, John Dillinger, the Bavarian Illuminati, cheeky deux ex machina, Anton LaVey’s fake satanic hustle and Lovecraftian Nazi zombie death apocalypse at a music festival that skips through time, space and point of view in a schizophrenic mirror of the fractured 20th Century. There’s a reason why this might be one of the greatest books ever written. Fnord.

A representative passage:
There was a silence that seemed to stretch into some long hall of near-Buddhist emptiness—George recognized the glimpse at last!, into the Void all his acidhead friend had tried to describe—and then he remembered that was not the trip Hagbard was pushing him toward. But the silence lingered as a quietness of spirit, a calm in the tornado of those last few days, and George found himself ruminating with total dispassion , without hope or dread or smugness or guilt; if not totally without ego, or in full darshana, at least without the inflamed and voracious ego that usually either leaped forward or shrunk back from naked fact. He contemplated his memories and was unmoved, objective, at peace. He thought of blacks and woman and of their subtle revenges against their Masters, acts of sabotage that could not be recognized clearly as such because they took the form of acts of obedience; he thought of the Shoshone Indians and their crude joke, so similar to the jokes of oppressed peoples everywhere; he saw, suddenly, the meaning of Mardi Gras and the Feast of Fools and the Saturnalia and the Christmas Office Party and the other limited, permissible, structured occasions on which Freud’s Return of the Repressed was allowed; he remembered all the times he had gotten his own back against a professor, a high school principal, a bureaucrat, or, further back, his own parents, by waiting for the occasion when, by doing exactly what he was told, he could produce some form of minor catastrophe. He saw a world of robots, marching rigidly in the paths laid down for them from above, and each robot partly alive, partly human, waiting its chance to drop its own monkey wrench into the machinery. He saw, finally, why everything in the world seemed to work wrong and the Situation Normal was All Fucked Up. “Hagbard,” he said slowly. “I think I get it. Genesis is exactly backwards. Our troubles started from obedience, not disobedience. And humanity is not yet created.”

The album: Violent Resignation: The Great American Teenage Suicide Rebellion 1992-1998 by In/Humanity

South Carolina’s In/Humanity lived to fuck with crust punk convention as they proselytized for the obviously-fake-but-still-kinda-serious concepts of “occultonomy,” “smashism” and “emo-violence.” In/Humanity’s rangy noise mixed crust punk politicking with cheesy Satanism, Charles Manson mockery and a goofball rip on the occult and esoteric to advance their goals of anarchism and personal autonomy at all costs. And with all that, their posthumous compilation demonstrates they had a deft hand at bending raw punk noise to their bidding as well. Death couldn’t even keep the band back as key members morphed into Guyana Punch Line to continue their mordant assault on mainstream mediocrity with a psychologically skewed slant on society’s ills.

A representative song: “Emo Violence Generation”

People try to put us down, the short sighted never see. What’s that emo violence sound? A sound for you and me! Occultonomist grips like strychnine on your back. The beast unleashed bears[sic] its teeth, now ready to attack! EMO VIOLENCE! EMO VIOLENCE!