Thursday, January 8, 2009
38. The Antithesis of the Flying Toaster Screensaver (Trenchmouth, Vs. the Light of the Sun)
There's the obvious route to take with these folks, so I'll get it out of the way first off. The drummer is Fred Armistead. Yes, that Fred Armistead, the SNL guy who looks like a really happy Gilbert Gottfried. He is a very good drummer. He used to be part of this band called Trenchmouth.
It really be something to be a smart punk, one who doesn't drink the McLarenoid Kool Aid, to look ahead and see absolutely nothing but yourself in the way. It's scary, I bet. But one punxnotdead's trackless waste is another man's endless playground. Trenchmouth took Fugazi's omnivorous approach to music but, lacking the baggage MacKaye and the boys irrefutably had, went further faster. And since they didn't have to be standard bearers for a generation of DIYers (and don't think I'm not grateful), Trenchmouth wasted little time in signing to Elektra and using every tool offered to them. Boy, for a return to those heady post-grunge boom days, huh? Everything was much better back then, before they changed the water, lemme tell ya kid.
Hence, "Vs. The Light of the Sun," which marries the dub sensibility so beloved by MacKaye (and countless British post-punk bands) to a careening rhythm section which can turn on a dime and guitar that switches between brute power and nimble treble.
All of which is topped off by one of rock and roll's great declaimers, Damon Lock. This man was born for politics if politics was more about rap battles. Or better ones, in any case. He. Has. Perfect. Diction. He doesn't sing, he tells you in terms clear and manner precise. It would have been very easy to just gibber and whoop over top of the tight orchestration and that would have been fine. More difficult still is to use the voice in counterpoint as a rhythm instrument. He barks, swoops up into a strangely child-like falsetto. He is an MC. He's telling you the news.
The news is, as usual, stranger than fiction, placed in an odd present situated between yesterday's future (in which "you can even eat the dishes," as they said in an earlier album) and a noir Chicago past: "Here Come the Automata," "Doing the Flammability," "The Effects of Radiation," "How I Became Invincible."
It is the last song that claims a special place in my heart. "Bricks Should Have Wings" is a call to action in the face of absolute chaos, represented by a riotous moshpit. This is what those Wachovski-or-whatever weiners were shooting for in that ridiculous underground rave they shot: a sky full of bricks winging their way to their targets with remorseless drive and purpose, while the crowd below pogoes in an affirmation that they are, maybe only temporarily but in any case joyously, awake.