29 September, 2012

30 Reviews In 30 Days: Review #28


Shit and Shine, Ladybird (Latitudes, 2005)

Ladybird is rock boiled down to an unbelievably primitive, guitarless essence: as the liners note, "4 drummers, 2 bassists, 1 toy keyboard = 1 riff, 41 minutes = evil fun." This is an album consisting of one 41-minute song, conveniently titled "Ladybird," consisting of the above instrumentation plus Craig Clouse's screamed vocals kept mostly just under the music, reverbed howls and grunts off in the background. The "toy keyboard" they refer to sounds nothing like a Casio you'd use to make cheesy sounds in the '80's and precious, godawful indie rock in the '00's. It keeps modulating between two notes and sounds more like unbelievably well controlled guitar feedback than anything else. (It's also probably this toy keyboard that keeps adding the almost random, tuneless blasts of white noise that float from speaker to speaker.) The power of the album lies in the insanely hypnotic and punishing repetition: the brutally distorted basses cycle through two heavy, vicious, grinding notes, continually gnashing at you, while the 4 sets of drums - which seem to consist of nothing but bass drums and snare drums, maybe floor toms and snare drums - pound out the simplest, heaviest rhythm you can imagine. Maureen Tucker would be proud. Individual musical elements drop out of the piece after about 15 minutes, to the listener's relief, but you know that the keyboard and basses will build up right into the same beyond-relentless riff again, and soon enough it does. While listening, the listener picks up on one aspect of the structure of the piece: every so often, one of the drummers does a snare roll, which signals the bassists and keyboardist to throw in their single variation on the two-note riff, and then it's back to the one riff. Again. And again. And again. It becomes cruel as it continues - you feel like they could've made their point somewhere around the 24th minute with no problems, but that would be detrimental to the goal of shameless sonic overkill they're pursuing. It's merciless enough to make the Butthole Surfers look like toddlers. Obviously, Ladybird has limited usage - it's not exactly something you can throw on in the background, and you can't even listen to it that often in the foreground. (Oddly enough, however, the band's later album Girls Against Shit is far less accessible than this album is, even though it's divided up into 19 songs.) But if you want an album stuck between pure noise destruction and psychedelic jam nirvana that will absolutely beat you into fucking submission and maybe leave you with a splitting headache afterwards, Ladybird is the finest choice you could have. This album/song is "Sister Ray" on Godzilla-powered steroids: it will turn your brain into raspberry jello and your shit into tap water.

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