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diskant rewind: Freedom From Excessive Noise #4

Posted: February 24th, 2009, by Stuart Fowkes

(Originally posted July 2002)

Freedom From Excessive Noise by Stuart Fowkes

If you, like me, have been watching VH1 every day almost constantly in the hope of seeing
that Enrique Iglesias video where he gets off with Anna Kournikova, it’s probably time you, well, got out more frankly. And while you’re out of the house, you might want to go and buy some new music. Maybe even some of this new music.

’03/04/02. Michael injures his lungs. 03/04/02. Bass’s nut broken in sword fight. 20/04/02. Michael blows the output tubes on his amp.’ Wisconsin’s New Blind Nationals don’t have photos or a list of influences on their website like mimsy indie rock hopefuls. Theirs is a list of damage – and what’s more, ROCK damage. Onstage lung wounds notwithstanding, opening track ‘Used Up’ proclaims ‘rock ‘n’ roll is pretty lame’ with the conviction of an English oak wardrobe being dropped onto the Hives’ collection of IKEA fake pinewood furniture, to labour the metaphor. In fact, by the time I’ve finished typing said metaphor, ‘Sturtevant By Night’ (Sturtevant? Free copy of the album to anyone who tells me what this means) has already pissed on my shoes and run away laughing. Four of the tracks here are terrific and make The Vines sound like the sub-GCSE Nirvana covers band they are, swelling and cracking their way out of the speakers as if they were recorded through blown amps using instruments nicked from the skip outside …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead’s house (which they may have been, given the band’s apparent propensity for BREAKING STUFF). Vaguely grungey, and garagey in neither the Strokes nor the Genius Kru sense, the nearest reference points that fling themselves from the shelves of HMV are Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge-era Mudhoney and the much-touted second coming of grunge, The Catheters. Unfortunately for the New Blind Nationals, calling a song ‘End Of The Good Songs’ only works if it’s a storming rock anthem direct from the toilet bowl where AC/DC got rid of their last curry, rather than actually being the end of the good songs. To be fair, it’s not that bad, but the final three plod along with a few inconsequential keyboard sounds, as if the band are being (slowly) pursued up the road by a lame Moog, until the screaming finale of ‘In Armed Decision’ sticks a few drumsticks where the sun doesn’t shine and reminds me why this would be the demo of the month, were such a spurious award to exist.

It’s quite hard to listen to anything with the kind of roaring tinnitus from which I’ve been known to suffer after listening to loud guitars, so the sparse atmosphere and sub-90bpm drum rhythms of electronic Glasgow-based outfit Viva Stereo come as quite a soothing experience, despite the fact that they’ve got the tracks in the wrong order entirely. The last of the three tracks, ‘Breakdown’, features actual guitar and sweeping synth strings, and ends up sounding a bit like what would happen if you locked Six By Seven in a room full of instruments and made them drink gin. It suffers a little from not knowing when to end, but is where Viva Stereo make their sparseness work for them. ‘Petite’ sounds almost exactly like the intro to two really good drum ‘n’ bass tracks, the ‘listen, you fuckers!’ vocal sample suggesting a hardcore junglist crowd pleaser in the vein of early 90s king of the mashup Evil Ed, while the plinky chords and authentic British Navy radar blips suggest something from deep on disc 2 of LTJ Bukem’s Journey Inwards. Neither really comes, the track instead chilling itself out after two and a half minutes, before returning as the Kelvinbridge equivalent of a classy cocktail at the CafĂ© Del Mar, which is probably a can of Tennent’s Super on a bridge, but there you go. Pleasingly relaxing, but lacking in any hooks to challenge you so far as to hum along. Which is the problem with opening track ‘Mankind’, which bimbles along with the same (admittedly pleasing) bassline and drum loop for too long, relying on vocal samples about how BAD war is to carry the listener along. If you created a complex mathematical program to draw a graph charting the relationship between sparseness, repetition and melody, the pattern would exactly resemble the words ‘seven out of ten’, which is what I’m going to give Viva Stereo.

And lo, did Complete Control Music and, bizarrely, the Cronfa Loteri lottery Fund and European Union European Social Fund also, come down from the heavens and bestowed the all-new Jarcrew single onto diskant. And what a scatty little beauty it is too. Gone are the days when Jarcrew’s mum not only produced their demo CDs, but also fed them so many cola bottles that they’d bound around like loonies bellowing ‘deemodeemodeemo’ at anyone who would give them the time of day. No, Jarcrew have SONGS now, and lead-off ‘Paris and the New Math’ is a stormer at that – all taut, stop-start riffs leading into a chorus you might end up singing for months but still have no idea what it means. Something about green lights and satellites, anyway. So far so Trail-of-Dead-on-Top-Of-The-Pops, but then there’s a quick burst of the old Jarcrew. A riff the Lostprophets thought was too edgy is reappropriated into a glorious moment of over the top metal histrionics and girlie screams, before bursting back into the chorus and daring you not to think you imagined the whole thing. It’s these moments of flirting with stupidity, like Kelly Brook opening a dunce’s convention, that lift Jarcrew above their contemporaries, but they’re becoming fewer and further between – we can only hope that they don’t lose their insanity in tightening up their sound. Second track is certainly no ‘Deth Car’, more of a straight-ahead metal song that makes up in poise what it lacks in personality, although the infectious main riff is not without its charms. Stay crazy, Jarcrew – the world needs you mad…

Laughtrack have a song called ‘Amusements’ and a rollercoaster on the cover, which for some reason puts me in mind of that god-awful Fairground Attraction song. Thankfully, the band have absolutely nothing to do with ‘Perfect’, instead crafting a pretty unusual noise-pop/eighties synth clash for themselves. There are keyboards from Killing Joke’s commercial synth-pop peak, for the most part buried under a giant cartoon snowball of fuzzy guitar noise. ‘Amusements’ was on its designated AA Routefinder path to Kim Gordon’s house, but got lost somewhere around the A6 and ended up in GOFF capital of the UK, Slough. The sheets of noise coating most of the track are the most pleasing sound on offer, covering up the vague GOFF overtones brought on by a combination of hushed androgynous vocals and a bassline with ‘1986’ stamped on it. The third track, a remix of ‘Amusements’, strips out the vocals to add fuzz to the bassline, bringing Depeche Mode to mind more than anything. The instrumental take also reduces the threat of a herd of GOFFS emerging from my cupboard to drink snakebite and black and mosh like extras from the club scene in
The Matrix
, and makes for a wholly more satisfying (and intriguing) take on affairs.

‘Remove Your Face In The Name Of R.O.C.K.’ is the undisputed song title of the month, from Little Girl With Cherries, who are the Midlands’ answer to the question ‘shall we sound a bit like Shellac?’ The answer, by the way, is ‘oh, OK then’. LGWC are to be noted for their enthusiasm in sending two demos apparently recorded exactly one year apart to the day, demos that sound to all intents like different bands. The earlier demo spurts along pleasantly enough, but the whole affair is made to sound more like Hole than perhaps it ought, the vocals outdoing the rest of the band’s attempts to make something interesting. Sensibly enough, then, LGWC dumped the idea of having vocals as unceremoniously as a drunk ex-girlfriend at a birthday party, and they sound all the better for it. Basslines hurry along like Bob Weston running for a bus, but the real action comes from Katy Brown’s excellent and vaguely math rock-style guitar work, all interesting time changes and a sound like every note is being played on a complete set of new strings. Songs stop when they’re not supposed to and re-emerge as different songs and scarcely a note goes to waste. Not intended in any patronising way, it’s also a great thing to see some women playing this kind of music, more often the preserve of PVC-clad Americans with wireless guitars. What is the female equivalent of an OX, anyway? I guess this is it. Excellent stuff.

Would you believe it – three ace new bands in one month. Don’t say we don’t look after you. Gotta go – I think I can hear Enrique calling…

Stuart Fowkes

Stuart is possibly one of the tallest people you have ever seen. He towers above your puny skyscrapers like Rodan on steroids, his blonde spikes puncturing the atmosphe re like crazed, gelled knives. In real life he is part of the Sunnyvale Noise Sub-element pop outfit, and writes for other websites as well as this one - the cheeky blighter. He favours the noisier end of the musical spectrum, with a fervour which would seem to indicate a dodgy heavy metal past.


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