04 May, 2013

LIAR! LIAR! LIAR!: Bodycop, "Bodycop"

Bodycop, Bodycop [Cassette], (Fan Death, 2010)

Today we're going to discuss a band you probably haven't heard of, but might appreciate if you're into the sonic equivalent of being beaten about the head and shoulders with a folding chair. This band is, or rather was, Bodycop. They were a quintet from Washington, DC who really liked early Swans, Throbbing Gristle, go-nowhere self-loathing and possibly Side B of My War, and all of that pretty much means I'd be into them from the get-go. Now, I know almost nothing about who was in this band at all: I know there was a singer by the name of Kiki, a guitarist, a bassist, an electronics operator, and a drummer, but that's pretty much it. But what I do know is that they made some truly punishing noise, as befitting a group filled with early Swans fans. They only released this 29-minute, 5-song cassette - which I guess makes this a mini-LP? or EP? - and then broke up amid a welter of strange rumors about the reasons why. (Sometimes I think punk rockers are worse than sewing circles.)

Bodycop's music is repetitive as hell. "Sisyphus" spends nearly five minutes twisting around a lone, almost ridiculously sour and backbiting guitar riff - and that's when the guitar and bass aren't coagulating into an almost totally atonal mass of rhythmic noise that sounds like nothing so much as someone breaking up granite with a hammer. This kind of thing happens a lot on this cassette, or mini-LP, or EP, or whatever - Bodycop aren't much on tunes. But the sound is deeply compelling. "Loaves" features one or two atonal bass chords being smashed again and again for nearly 7 minutes until you feel your brains slowly melting into a puddle of muck, and "Pay Up" hammers one half-there riff into the ground for nearly 8 minutes until breaking into an absolutely pulverizing groove for the last minute. What makes this willfully noisy stringed-instrument abuse work is that it's all strictly rhythmic - there's no attempt at all to go into free time, and there's no attempt to improvise. (This might be a noise album, but it's not anything like, say, guitar-era Ramleh or Skullflower.) So the guitar and bass stay rigidly tethered at all times to the extremely powerful, often rather tom-heavy and creative drumming, and the result is an EP full of very tight and mostly atonal playing. Even Norman Westberg was more melodic than this, and to say the effect is bracing is an understatement. I hate to keep on trotting out the blunt force metaphors, but this band really is pummeling. You almost expect to lose a few teeth by the time the EP is over.

The other elements of this EP, though, are what make it so distinctive. Kiki's weirdly blank, groaning screech is often subtly fed through a harmonizer, which has the effect of making her sound both strangely processed and strangely anonymous; it's as if the rage being expressed has already lost nearly all meaning for her, but is as much a natural function as breathing. It's as if there's no choice but to feel this way, or that feeling such overwhelming rage at all times has become ingrained. Either way, it sounds like she has almost no emotional investment or payoff in her rage. It just exists on an even level, a pure, dead, amplified hum. Her screaming is fairly odd and unique - I don't think I've ever heard another singer like her, and I've heard a lot of angry screamers at this point - and coupled with the completely oblivious, gurgling, deadening, mindless electronics that smother every song on the EP, the overall effect is pretty unsettling.

Overall, Bodycop is one of those bands where I really wish they'd stuck around long enough to record a proper album or two - they might not have felt like they could have developed any further, but with such a devolved, degraded, and individual sound in place already, who knows what depths or heights they could have explored? Or what they could have evolved into? Anyway, I've always found it somewhat futile at best to speculate on what if's with a band, and what exists here is the EP, and that's enough. If you've been having a really, really, really terrible day, this band makes for one hell of a soundtrack, and I get a real kick out of hearing Kiki bellowing "Liar! Liar! Liar!" again and again on the last song here even when the sun is shining and it's a beautifully optimistic spring day. After all, as Woody Allen said, the heart wants what the heart wants. And sometimes the heart wants nothing more than abusive sensory overload, even during warm spring days.

Recent Love (Nothin' but a Load of Bloody Irish Bollocks Edition)

Girl Band, France 98
Buckle up and fix a cocktail, kids: This record is fucking loud. Good goddamned wall of noise fuck you rock.
I was hipped to this record by Jake, the Welsh (and therefore questionable) half of Pink City and one third of She Ripped, when he posted about them on his wall. If you're new to these parts, you should know that those two bands I just noted are bands that I really like, so I'm inclined to trust Jake's judgment... even if he is Welsh.
Now, I'm late to the party on this record, as I generally am with most music, but not as late as usual; this came out last October. Chances are you probably already know about this thing. You might already be listening to it. And, if you are, good on you.
Anyway, I heard this record for the first time a week after the review I did for China's Pussy, you know, last week, and not only have I been floored at how much good noise rock I've been hearing these past few weeks, Girl Band are currently blowing up my headphones, in tight contention with China, actually. But I'm only kind of not exaggerating when I say they're blowing up my headphones. France 98 is loud as all fuck, nearly deafening me as I gave it a first proper listen while drinking a bloody mary on the patio and read The Torture Garden, a book which, by itself, is already a brainsplitter. Pick up where you left off reading beautiful descriptions in translated French about the foliage while listening to "You're a Dog" at full blast - and believe me, the only reason your brains don't run out your other ear is because the other earphone blasting them back in (just not back into place) - and it will make sense when you "meat" the little Buddha man who rearranges (live) people's body parts just chilling in the garden, wiping off his saws. It will make sense. (In fact, I'm beginning to wonder if there's any other way this record could be enjoyed, but I'm a pretentious sodding git like that.)
But by the third listen, my ears had already adjusted to the punishment. Sure, I should've turned it down but hey.
So we've established that this record is loud but is the volume warranted? Yes, it is. With maybe one or two exceptions, this record wouldn't work with understated acoustic pieces. "Second One" could be on the band's MTV Unplugged set if A) Girl Band were slick MTV bullshit material and B) MTV even had music on it anymore. (To be honest, that last bit might be unfair; I haven't watched MTV in years but I'm pretty sure that the reason last year's return of Beavis and Butt-Head poked fun at reality shows more than videos had to do with M(usic)T(ele)V(ision)'s lack of music programming.) "Handswaps", immediately after "Second One", deals with quiet-quiet-quiet build ups but is still, well, loud. You get me? Aside from those two, though, you can't really play these songs in a subdued quiet manner.
That's not saying that Girl Band are using threshold-of-pain volumes as a gimmick, no. The type of music they're making pretty much requires that decibel level. That is to say, if it wasn't loud, it wouldn't sound right.
And how does it sound? Well, take the opener, "You're a Dog". This is the drunken hip-swinger on the record, the ass-shaker. It really dares you to not dance, even if you dance badly. You're going to want to climb the damned furniture and jump off of it. And it's also one of those openers that makes you wonder, "Can the rest of the record be this good?"
Thank fuck, yes.
"Busy at Maths" is just as fun, just as memorable, but brings the tempo down and gives us an in-out-hi-hat swing more suited for scissor or reverse cowgirl fucking than for jumping around like a maniac. I mean, it has a melotron on it. How you going to smash anything when there's a melotron? No, that's an instrument a band uses for when they want you to toke a hookah and/or fuck.
"That Snake Conor Cusack" is perfect for that midtown traffic-dodging bike ride and the title track is the last thing you want to hear in the middle of a bad trip; if mclusky's "Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues" had an Irish cousin that drank more, had homemade knuckle tattoos, ate speed at a consumption level to rival Lemmy's or Hunter's, and had a batshit crazy girlfriend with two vehicular assault convictions to her name, it would be "France 98".
The last two "quiet" (in quotes because it's really only by comparison) songs are down right beautiful to listen to. "Second One" is actually very relaxing, the valley amid all the peaks, and "Handswaps" is the big epic closer that every record tries to have, the difference is that, out of all the big epic closing numbers ever, "Handswaps" belongs in the minority of those songs categorized as being "done right". The elements are all there, the cathedral echo and the brief and conservative flashes of psychedelia and techno sub-bass booms.
You can drink to this, you can dance to this, you can fuck to this, you can road rage to this, and, yes, if you find yourself in the position to do so, you can read gory 19th century political satire written employing the collage technique. I might not recommend that last one, I'm just saying that it worked for me. Maybe it will work for you, too. I reckon the best way to find out is to go check it out.
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