20 April, 2013

Recent Love (I've Made the Decision to Start Smoking Grass Again Edition)

China, Pussy
Yes. Yes. Yes, motherfuckers, yes.
Sometimes you don't need to name your band [noun] [verb] [noun] and then name your record with a fucking sentence. Actually, that rule should be never. You never need to do that. And who proves that? China. China proves that. First, they name themselves after a global goddamned superpower that our country is how many trillion in the hole to? And then, when they had to title their record, I imagine the band meeting went like this:
"I like pussy."
"I like pussy, too."
"Should we name the record Pussy?"
"Why the fuck not?"
ANYhoo... There's been exactly one record that's dominated my headphones for the past two months and that's been China's Pussy. Right from the beginning of the opener, "Life Owes You Nothing", I was hooked. By the time "Greater Black", the closer finished, I was already telling Anthony from China that China was exactly the kind of band that I'd want to be in. Equal parts noisy and sparse, simple and smart, China are straight-forward heavy punk. There's no gimmickry on Pussy, in fact, you might say it's a basic rock record but don't mistake "basic" as a detriment. It's not generic by any means; it grabs your attention and keeps it from front to back, the way all good records should. It's the kind of record that makes me want to get high and fuck, also the way all good records should. It's the kind of record where, every time I plug in my headphones and get on my bike, thinking I'm in the mood for mclusky or Naked Raygun or Rowland S. Howard and I find out that my phone is still set on Pussy, I think to myself, "No. I want to listen to Pussy." That's how I'm rolling.
I'm going to the bank listening to "Lando's Trunk". I'm going to the supermarket to pick up a brisket listening to "Jahbreaker". I'm marching right the fuck into Target to get Swiffer pads listening to "Life Owes You Nothing". And I give not a fuck. With this record in my ears, I'm an errand running motherfucking juggernaut and you best get the fuck out of my way because "I Never Believed in Ghosts Until I Came Face to Face with One" is starting and my ass is going to the fucking post office because I need to get a money order to make this month's student loan payment.
And, yeah, sad to say that I haven't actually gotten high and fucked to this record yet. I had the opportunity, I suppose, but the lady in question and I were talking and listening to it. That's how shit goes sometimes.
You see that ↑ ? That's what's called a clinker. That's not a good thing. And Pussy is absolutely one thousand percent devoid of clinkers.
So, enough of me just saying over and over how good this record is. I take it you probably believe by now that I'm really really into it. What does it sound like?
Well, the music is, as noted, equal parts noise and quiet. (No, not in the Pixies way.) The band play as much with rest and space as they do with big scary fuck off noise. A good example of that is "LA Water", which actually reminded me of Calexico in its opening moments (that's a good thing). It builds over time to a big, sweeping crescendo. In itself, it's a lesson in dynamics. And then that goes into "Jahbreaker", a fast start-stop noise number that ought to be requisite listening for any self-respecting punker. It actually reminds me a bit of Nirvana's "tourette's".
There's also the aforementioned simplicity. Some songs consist of two chords. "I Never Believed in Ghosts Until I Came Face to Face with One" has one lyric. But the simplicity here is closer to the mclusky side of things than the Ramones side of things, there's nothing here that could be considered "pop-punk". China knows that sometimes you just need one goddamned riff and one goddamned beat to prove your fucking point. Make it heavy, make it hit hard, and save all that complexity bullshit for the trigonometry nerds. They're going to come to your town, get on your stage, rip through their drink tickets, flirt with the bartender to get a little extra in the shot glass, one of them will take her home, and they didn't need to navigate a Rand-McNally fretboard atlas to do it. There's always more mileage to farm out of simplicity and repetition, that's what creates memorable "earworms". That's why after twenty years, I can still remember how "Symphony of Destruction" goes but fuck me if I can recall one note of "Hanger Eighteen". (That's a Megadeth reference, kids.) (Also? I think one of the notes in "Hanger Eighteen" might have been a B♭. There's a likelihood that that was in there.)
And I'm not saying that China just go plink-plink-plink one-two-three-four all the way through the songs. They do flex their musical know-hows. I could learn maybe a third of Pussy in an afternoon. It would take me maybe three or four days to nail the bass part to "Greater Black", and that would be with some serious practice. I would have to really sit down and pay attention to the guitar on "LA Water".
The bassist carries a lot, I dare say the majority, of the melodic weight in this band and he's as comfortable playing two note drones as he is playing across all four strings up and down the neck. (Compare the bass work on the first two songs, "Life Owes You Nothing" and "Lando's Trunk", for example.) And the drums? The drummer only makes it look easy. Try to match his hi-hat control sometime. I fucking dare you. He's also the major reason I thought "LA Water" sounded like a Calexico song at first. Long and short of it, he's a drummer in a punk band, not a punk drummer... if you get my meaning. I'm not trying to say that punk drummers - look, what I mean to say is that there's a stereotype and that - because - Ah, fuck it. And the guitarist (that being Anthony) is precisely the kind of guitarist I can get down with, utilizing feedback and arpeggiated chords - triads, not power chords - to paint harmonic swaths over the songs. I basically want to smoke a joint and knock back forties of Olde English in this cat's garage and jam with him; he plays guitar the way I do.
When people ask me about the kind of music I like, I normally just tell them punk rock. When I'm really, and I mean really pressed for an answer (and the person in question is cool enough for me to bother), I tell them that I like really big, scary, noise music, the kind where the bass carries the melody and the guitar paints a harmonic texture and the drums are nearly solely responsible for the rhythmic element. My first exposure to that technique being Melvins' "If I Had an Exorcism" was what hooked me on music like that. In that regard, China fit the bill. Again, exactly the kind of band that I'd want to be in.
So far as I recall, China are from Vegas(?) so the likelihood of them making it out here to the Midwest where we got six inches of snow in mid-fucking-April for Christ's sake isn't high. Then again, they did make the trek to Chicago to record Pussy at Electrical Audio in Chicago, so never say never, I guess.
So, if you're into the same things I'm into, this record is going to wind up in your headphones for two months and probably stay there well after that. Essentially, if you can't get down with this record the way I'm down with this record, then you and I are going to have to seriously reevaluate our friendship.
And while I'm certain that this record came out in 2012, while I know it's only April 2013, I'm calling it. This is SD&A's 2013 record of the year. I get to do those sorts of things.
Sorry guys, there's no trophy or monetary award or anything.

ADDENDUM: Nope. Still hasn't come out. I guess you have to be part of a secret club to hear it.

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