Broken Hearts are for Assholes.
Well the immediate answer is no, though I am a bit of a lover of all things metal and haven’t actually heard them for about fifteen years, since their "Ozma" and "Gluey Porch Treatments" era, though I did see them live, twice, during what’s affectionately referred to round Impostume Heights as The Full Head Of Hair Years. What I didn’t/don’t like about them (actually I should be careful here as having just checked out their mySpace page to confirm my prejudices I ended up thinking, ahhhh, this is pretty good, damn them!) is where they seemed to be positioned in regard to their art (though of course, precisely because of where they’re positioned they would curl their lip at my having described it as Art.) They always seemed to be slightly above it, attitudinally. They know it’s just dumb rawk and revel in that dumbness but in a self-conscious way that also doesn’t actually suggest to the listener (as does most po-mo) that you too can be in on the joke, yet is also resolutely un/anti-intellectual. It’s kind of autistic po-mo, deliberately un-savvy, willfully ghettoised. The Melvins think that people either think too much or don’ t think enough and don’t want to be found guilty of either, they also think people take shit too seriously but don’t want to be caught being naïve about like how much life sucks either (because, dude, they’ve seen their share, walk a mile in THESE shoe bro, and then come back and lay your shit on me!) and the result is a certain debilitating, deadpan irony, a kind of sluggishly aggressive facetiousness. The evil that is The Sardonic.
**You know me, mate I’m an Original Thinker, innit, I avoid cliche like the bus-stop. I avoid cliché like the potato. There’s no marmosets on me. I see clichés coming 13.2 furlongs away, I do, let’s call a spade a gerbil……
*** Towards a definition of the sardonic. Actually, I make it a policy to avoid reading anything entitled either, “Toward a definition of…” or “attention-grabbingly unlikely title (semi colon) X as X OR X as X (semi colon) unlikely thesis”, for example, “Habermas’ Haberdashery:Millinery as Praxis” or “The Ontic Sublime: toward a definition of Ena Sharples”. The worst of all would be something that combined the two, “Thrown-ness as mantic encomium: fistula, caesura, wo/men: toward a definition of milk.”
Hang on, am I no better than those I criticise???? Again???????
Now, it’s not much of a surprise then that the Melvins have ended up on Ipecac, arch sardonic Po-Mo metal guru Mike Patton’s horribly uneven label. Patton’s a kind of Rawk John Zorn, (or possibly Robbie Williams) with whom he sometimes collaborates, his label a kind of Rock Sounds reader’s Tzadik, (I say this while acknowledging the excellence of both the Young Gods and Dalek, of course.) Patton, following in Zappa’s smugsteps, has come up with cut-and-paste abominations* like Mr Bungle, the terminally unexciting, low-brow avant-garde of Fantomos and unfunky, pastiche-pervs Peeping Tom. Now Patton’s gone and ruined about the only thing he had going for himself with the otherwise-passable Tomahawk’s latest release “Anonymous,” a certain candidate for a Golden Fosbury as most spectularly executed artistic flop of the year, an apparent tribute to the indigenous peoples of North America, a collection of folk songs, chants, rain dances and other ceremonial pieces that sounds, as usual, as if the hyper-productive Patton cobbled it together out of the overused set of samples and sound effects, along with the same variety of trademark “experimental” vocal techniques, that he’s been using to increasingly stultifying effect on every-bleeding-thing he’s turned up on since “Faith No More” went tits-up. Not much of a tribute, that! No doubt Patton prides himself on having educated metal and metal fans by dragging in all kinds of outside elements, but the real innovation has been going on elsewhere and Pattons ironic, chop-sockey cartoon ethic has been totally surpassed by the grimly serious, sacramental intensity of the likes of Nadja, The Angelic Process, Jesu, Grails.
* "Nurse with Wound" are rather in this category too, aren’t they? (and isn’t the NWW list among the smuggest acts ever perpetrated by a, well, let's not say human being let’s say, err…cattle-shed dwelling, milk-and-dung-scented Magus.) I mean, “The Sylvie and Bab’s Hi-Fi companion.” I ask you, what a sack of Cow's-cack. I must have owned it for nigh on two decades and listened to it halfway through twice.
And it's not only Patton that’s been frankly getting on my nerves.
Ladies and gentlemen I am about to confront you with two of the most unpleasant words in the English language, cover the children’s eyes, peep between your own fingers if you must. The first one is…….
seems innocuous enough so far, doesn't it?
but now here comes the second…..
Are you ready
Don't say I didn't warn you!
Yep, Steve Albini. There he is.
What Albini has in common with Patton, other than a certain determination to not give in to their audience, who just want to pigeonhole them and dumbly rock out (equals: have a good time for their hard-earned entertainment dollar) instead of understanding that they are important artists (though they wouldn’t make this claim explicitly. However, there is something in Shellac’s interminable thwarting of gig dynamics live/ Fantomos’s really un-groovable micro-thrash moments and long stretches of noodling that suggests a certain haughtiness, a certain custodians-of-the-tradition aloofness*) is a certain, boring Frat-boy sexism masquerading as straight-guy, warts-and-all honesty, an asanine, knee-jerk political incorrectness as a kind of self-aggrandising psuedo-reportage on the shadowy-corners of the human psyche**
Both of these tendencies intertwine on Shellac’s “ A Geniune Lullabelle” from their latest release, the predictably obtusely entitled " Excellent Italian Greyhound" which not only breaks down into silence half-way through and then spends half of it’s nine-minute running time with Albini expounding on a particular woman who “knows her way around a cock”***(not an expert poultry farmer, presumably) amid a chorus of radio presenter style voices intoning the song’s title. It’s deeply unedifying. An Italian women speaks at the end of the track and that, along with the album's title, suggests that this is Albini getting back at an ex-girlfriend, which also renders it pitiful, but not, hey, in any kind of revealingly interesting way. The whole feel of Shellac, indeed all of Albini’s post Big Black stuff is increasingly arch and dessicated, the beauty of "Songs about Fucking" and "Atomizer," apart from the propulsive disco drum patterns was the sheer range of guitar sounds, the immense Lysergic surge of "Kerosene", the irradiated intensity of their version of "The Model." While Shellac are democratic, intricate, nimble, galvanized, springy there's also something negligible, throwaway about them, something scrawny and par-boiled, that brings Albini’s paucity of character as a lyricist, and the poverty of his persona to the fore, all of which undermines the whole project fatally.
*Witness of course also "Terraforms" relentlessly dull and undynamic ten minute long, two-note thudalongs through which you could practically feel Albini smirking at your increasing dismay.
** And if we’re being self-aggrandising, then listen, lads, I don’t need YOU to investigate the mind’s tenebrous hinterland on my behalf, I’m perfectly prepared to pull on me waders and slop through that marshy, infested terrain of my own accord, ta very much!
*** Same goes for his neurotic anti-art-phag assertions, one of those guys who finds it impossible to say whether another man is handsome or not as they just literally CANT SEE IT , because they are TOO STRAIGHT. Now I don’t wan’t to suggest that all homophobes/mysoginists are repressed homosexuals/sexual inadequates but Albini’s world has had a slavering obsession with big dicks/phallic power from the start, “Big Black” was taken from the Tenessee William's story about a slave who rapes a girl (no doubt an immaculately-manicured, finely-boned Wasp princess) the grimacing animes on the cover of “Songs about Fucking” sealed his Hentai credentials, then of course he formed “Rapeman.” Conclusion: he’s a geeky sexual inadequate who slavers over big, cervix-pummeling cocks. Suffer you bitches, suffer!
Is that too obvious? Rememember the maxim. Sometimes trite is right!
At which point, it's only fair to say that anyone who has had the great good fortune to have met the Impostume in the flesh (or....read his blog) will be musing kettleblackpottishly re the Impostume’s own deployment at momets of heightened anxiety (ie. when interacting with others) of strategies that could well be described as sardonic. True enough, but this is the least appealing aspect of his character and if you were to determindley avoid him, you’d be absolutely in the right. And besides, to paraphrase the resolutely unsardonic Minor Threat, " At least I'm fucking trying, what the fuck have THEY done?"