“As if I ain’t got trouble enough,” sneered Keith Dobson, and then blam—the speakers on my little Sharp brand boombox rattled like someone was raking them with a wire brush. Not that far from the truth, if the rumors were true about how World Domination Enterprises achieved that shearing, sheet-metal guitar sound: by smashing their guitars to pieces and then bolting them back together. Come to think of it, that would make such a move predate Dragon Eye Morrison’s similar speaker-cone-tearing stunt in Electric Dragon 80.000 V by a good fifteen years or so.
WDE were neither the first nor the last band I discovered thanks to WFMU, but they probably rank as one of the two or three noisiest. (#1 slot: Missing Foundation.) The station didn’t come in all that great—they were in East Orange, I was in Teaneck, and the antenna on my radio had suffered a header and didn’t telescope out anymore. Most everything I taped off the air from them was sputtered with a patina of static, but when you were dealing with a band that sounded like a punk drum section providing support for a mixmaster who’d plopped a guitar on his turntable and was raking the needle across the strings, that only made them sound all the better. Dobson didn’t even sound like he was playing that guitar, he sounded like he was letting things escape from it.
This wasn’t music for dancing to, or singing along to—even if you could sort of do both of those things to their sick, sick, sick cover version of “Funkytown”. This was music to grit your teeth to and get battered around by, something I’d already developed a taste for thanks to the Swans and the rest of the folks in the “NOISY GUITAR SHIT, WHATEVER YOU WANT TO CALL IT” divider at Bleecker Bob’s. If you were in a bad mood, it was cathartic; if you were in a good mood, it was weirdly euphoric. WDE weren’t as out-and-out terminal as the Swans, though; their mood was more snide humor, blunt-nosed anger or tongue-in-cheek sarcasm—a punk band that seemed to be waiting in the wings to pick up where Sonic Youth left off, all the while fingering knives and nooses and large bits of scrap metal.
But for years on end, all I had was that one song. My off-the-air copy of “Trouble Enough” went back and forth across the heads of the tape deck so many times it probably accrued frequent-flier miles. No sign of the album itself, though, barring a vinyl copy owned by some sullen East Village record-store guy. He wanted a wallet-devouring fifty bucks for it. A year later, a CD copy of the album—albeit with a punch-out hole—turned up in the uptown Tower Records’ Bargain Annex for the far more reasonable price of $1. Sure enough, most of the rest of the disc followed in the same vein as “Trouble Enough”—nervous, jittery, uptempo, short little blasts of sheet-metal guitar waggled in the face.
Most of the tracks were either sidelong socio-political skewerings (“Trouble Enough”, “Blu Money”,”Message for You People”) or, also interestingly, rants about bad women made even worse by a bad civilization (“Hotsy Girl”, “Ghetto Queen”, and “Catalog Clothes”, the latter expanding outwards from shallow women to trendy poseurs in general). The slower, more dub/reggae-inflected tracks (“Jah Jah Call You”) were like realizations of all the nascent dread and menace in the hardest dub records out there; in the context of the whole record, they sounded downright mean instead of potentially silly.
The most important track on the record, “Asbestos Lead Asbestos”—an angry blast at the disposable, cookie-cutter life created for the lower-middle class in not only England but any industrialized country, really—actually isn’t my favorite song of the bunch. That said, it’s hard to argue with something that’s not only been covered by Meat Beat Manifesto (one of my four or five favorite bands alive right now) but lent itself to being reworked so radically and remarkably.
I mentioned snide humor. It’s hard to get much more snide than WDE’s cover of—well, I mentioned “Funkytown”, but even that bulked tiny next to a ripsaw version of LL Cool J’s “I Can’t Live Without My Radio”. The whole thing isn’t parody, though; it’s a high-five. (It also features Dobson making his guitar sound like DJ scratching long before Rage Against the Machine beat the same idea to death for four records.)
Let’s Play Domination was pretty much it as far the band’s output went, apart from another LP that was a live show and a smattering of singles. As of 1990 or so—a good four years before I bumped into that CD in the cut-out bins—they were defunct. Then again, I didn’t imagine a band with a sound this fundamentally fierce needed to last for more than one album anyway. One poke in the ear is all you need.
New York City
Other Lives Of The Mind