19 May, 2012

Recent... Um... (Local Edition)

Kitty Rhombus, Lips & Arms
I'm going to be honest because I like to think I'm not just running around being some sort of sycophant when I review a record: Largely, Lips & Arms wasn't my thing. (Sorry, Kitty Rhombus, you probably won't find anything quotable in this review.) Part of the problem, though, is that I can't tell precisely why it's not my thing. Through the record, there are elements of things I am into: Snotty vocals, guitar interplay that's in contest for the new Verlaine / Lloyd title... But, "Outside In", the opener? I wasn't grabbed until maybe the last minute. "Daughters'", however, I was pulled in right away. It has the muscle and the theater reminiscent of the Tool songs I like and, believe me, those have grown to be pretty few ever since I started confusing Tool with A Perfect Circle and not just because of Maynard's presence. (For real, did the world even need A Perfect Circle when Tool was already there?) "Parasitic Emergence" has a few moments that remind me of my first band, so I can't hate on that.
So after the first three songs, what I have is something in which I hear elements I like but, on a whole, isn't connecting with me. And that just reminds me of something (I think) John Peel (correct me if I'm wrong) said, "If I don't like a record, it's my fault for not getting it, not the band's; they know what they're doing." Or something to that effect. Yes, I know that I'm on the internet right now and I can just look it up, but for brevity's sake, let's just keep going.
Now, I know this all sounds negative so far. But I'm going to tell you that this record didn't fail in winning me over. ",Baby?" is the first song on the record to grab me completely and this is where the guitarists are definitely pulling out the Verlaine / Lloyd moves. "Gas Station" is a real solid winner. Some of the best vocal harmonizing I've heard on a record in a long time on a song that takes you back to the protoglam era, if that was ever a thing / era, a time from the late sixties and early seventies where arena rock was built on PCP and old Beatles records. And "Fan Fare" is a solid interlude between "sides" of the record, leading to "Phantom Skin", another one with tight vocal harmonies, this time built around a Jesus Lizard / Shellac rhythm.
And maybe that's my problem with the record: So far, I've been able to hear influences from Television, Tool, Beatles, the Jesus Lizard, and Shellac. And while Kitty Rhombus does an outstanding job in combining these elements - trust me, listen to it and you'll hear that it's not so much a simulacra or amalgamation of styles as it is a digestion of influences; when Ian contacted me, he assured me that I'd never heard anything like Kitty Rhombus before, which, yeah, honestly, I thought, "SSSuuurrreee" - it's almost a sensory overload from where I'm sitting.
And I think that's my chief problem: In a band that's created an identity all their own, they are essentially without identity. Or at least, they're without identity until twenty or so bands start copping their moves and then we truly have a new genre on our hands. Because that how it goes: You have a new word, you need to define that new word.
And here's where we move into the heavy shit, kids. It is one tenet of Lacanian theory - and the only tenet of Lacan's philosophy that I can actually recall - that an object has value until you give it a name. A category that it can fit into. And because Kitty Rhombus don't fit into a category, try as I might to have done so by attaching comparisons, be they fair or unfair, they have value. Perhaps more value than the bands that you can easily put into your metal folder, your punk folder, your country and western folder. But it's because I've had a lifetime as a music fan who grew up in a world with these distinctions and rules and categories that I'm having trouble really sinking my teeth into this, you dig?
And so then, I have to transport myself back to a different time. The one of Mozart and the one of Beethoven and the one of my beloved Strauss... You have to think about it in the terms of what music fans back then thought of it: None of it was classical. And there are certainly music aficionados more tutored than I that can tell us that one guy was a romantic composer and another guy was a baroque composer, but those aren't genres so much as they are eras. There were romantic painters and sculpters and writers and poets, baroque painters and sculpters and writers and poets; nothing so much to do with genre as it was to do with era. To make my point clear, Kitty Rhombus isn't playing a genre of music, they're playing music. And that's where I'm getting tripped up: I never lived in an era where music was just music (As silly as that sounds because music is music, what else could it be?), I live in an era where I once made two people at the same time very, very angry when I suggested that if you took Twisted Sister's Stay Hungry, cut the songs in half, sped them up, and ixnayed the solos, you could easily have a Black Flag record. People get pissy and defensive about their categories. In my thirty one years, I've not come across too many people who didn't. It's the normative behavior. So you take this band, right here, Kitty Rhombus, and you have a band that could probably give less than a squirt of piss about categorization and that makes them a hard Worther's to suck on.
And I have no doubt that these four guys probably have Ramones and Johnny Cash records, Violent Femmes and Sex Pistols records, maybe some Birthday Party, maybe some Megadeth, all the great required listenings that everybody our age has been force fed... It's just that they heard them and probably said, "Great. That's been done. Why do that again?"
So, what's the deal with this record and me? It's a record that I should listen to a lot more. I have a feeling that the past two weeks have not been enough exposure (coincidentally, I was supposed to have this review up last weekend but I was sick). And the band is three-quarters local and I think I might have seen somewhere that they play at Cause down on Lyn-Lake so I should go see them the next time I see their name in the free weekly's calendar. I mean, shit, Cause is what? A three? four minute bike ride from the house? But can I love this record yet? Not necessarily but that doesn't mean that love can't blossom. It's going to take a bit of time but I'm sure that, after a while, after I get over my hangups, this could be a go to record.
I do, however, foresee problems with trying to fuck to it. I'll say that: You can't fuck to it.

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