Music: Soul Discharge (Boredoms)

There was at least one kid like this in every class. Turn your back on him for five minutes, and the entire surface of his desk (and maybe the floor around his desk, too) would be lacquered with crayon scribbles. Not one school supply in his possession was used for its intended purpose: erasers up the nose, paper clips attached to the earlobes, and hole punchers used to create confetti that would be sprinkled into his own hair and then shaken off into your lap as fake dandruff. If a kid like that doesn't grow up to become Yamatsuka Eye, lead singer of the Boredoms, and go on to record shrieking, twitching, roaring, shaking, shocking albums like Soul Discharge, then the universe makes less sense than I thought it did.

It's been said that one of the secrets of genius is creative disinhibition, the willingness to indulge in even the stupidest and most counter-intuitive of impulses, just to see where they lead. By that standard, the Boredoms — and this record, their first full album — are works of genius so total it's a categorial mistake to call them dumb. There's never a moment when the Boredoms don't know exactly what they're doing; their brilliance is in how they make it all seem as spontaneous as that aforementioned kid wrapping the dog in tinfoil and throwing up in the guest bathroom sink while you were out.

"Sponatenous"— so, is that as in "punk" or "progressive"? Oh, you want to talk labels? Fine, we'll talk labels. The former's about intentions (hey, man, let's start a band); the latter's about execution (a ten-minute drum solo). The Boredoms do both at once, and one of the beauties of that kind of punk-gressive outlook is how it gives you the freedom to not be constrained by anything as piddling as a label. When the first thing you hear on this record is a stop-and-start duel between singer Eye yeep-ing something like "Wee? Ah!" and a blast of guitar noise that I swear sounds like someone got their fingers stuck under the strings and is screaming for help, arguments like "Punk or progressive?" aren't part of the picture anymore. It's whether or not the whole thing exists beyond the level of a prank or a lark, and I argue that Soul Discharge does, in fact, have more to it than just a prank or a lark.

There are ten tracks on this disc. They might as well all be the same track, in a good way. Not because Shimmy-Disc, distributors of the U.S. version of the album, stupidly forgot to index the individual songs on the CD (word has it the band didn't get a cut of the sales for this edition, either), but because all of them have the same manic-panic approach. All of them feature Eye's rubbermouth vocals, drumkit-falling-downstairs percussion, and guitar lines that alternately shamble and screech. It's music from a rock junkyard, at least in part because that's where it sounds like they scavenged their instruments from, but also in the thematic sense: a place where discarded riffs, unused drumrolls, and dented melodies have all been dumped. Then that kid I was talking about at the top of this piece came along and turned it all into musical junk sculpture that you hang from a ceiling rafter.

Eye's earlier noise-experiment group The Hanatarash had primed me to not avert my ears whenever splodgeness abounded. No, not even from an album that sported song titles like "TV Scorpion", "JB Dick & Tina Turner Pussy Badsmell", "Bubblebop Shot", and "Jup-na-Keeeeel" (I think that's the right number of Es). Maybe the weird got me in the door, but it was the glee, the utter wide-eyed moon-madness energy that kept me inside. This isn't the boneheaded thuggishness of the Stooges, or the smirking contrarian hipness that Frank Zappa allowed to get the better of him; this is a kid — that kid — swinging upside down from the top of the monkey bars while turning his eyelids inside out. I doubt Zappa was looking for someone to pose a response when he recorded his album entitled Does Humor Belong In Music?, but Soul Discharge — and maybe the whole of the Boredoms's career — is the best answer I've heard yet.

Tags: Boredoms  Hanatarash  Yamatsuka Eye  music  noise  review 

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This page contains a single entry by Serdar Yegulalp in the category Music, published on 2015/01/24 10:00.

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