Thursday, June 18, 2009
TOTAL (SELF) HATE
When you spend the most formative years of your life listening to angry music, a lot of things can become clouded. For starters, your definitions of "anger" may become seriously skewed. When I was in the 3rd grade I bought myself a cassette copy of Metallica's self-titled black album. Yes, longhairs in sleeveless t-shirts, I know that was the beginning of the end for the band. But I was in 3rd fucking grade. I thought it was awesome. Countless hours were spent in the bedroom of my double-wide trailer, jumping off of the furniture and air-guitaring my adorable little fingers off. As I grew older I realized that the world is a shitty place and got into some significantly more despondent tuneage, such as Nine Inch Nails and Ministry and a whole lot of other crap that I think sucks now.
Then high school happened and my sense of loathing towards both myself and the world around me transmogrified into a stubborn, unrelenting disdain for my peers. Self-righteous angry music was my new thing, and bands like Minor Threat both inspired and supported my budding sense of superiority. There were a few blows to my rock-solid audio repertoire, of course, whenever some pretty young thing stepped onto the scene and scrambled my adolescent brains into thinking it would be okay to buy a goddamned Promise Ring album every once in a while, but that is beside the point.
The past decade of my life has been one of constant self-discovery and I have not only begun to feel a great deal of shame for the ultimately pointless negativity of my past, but have accordingly opened my ears to musical phenomena I would have immediately and unreasonably shunned during my period of ignorance. Of course, I still listen to a large variety of what can still best be described as angry music. I tend to be a bit more discerning these days, however, when it comes to that shit. Within a staggering number of heavy music subgenres, there unfortunately seems to exist a greater measure of garbage than genuinely good stuff. I suppose it all depends on where you draw your distinctions, and despite being 100% bummed out by it, I am understanding of the fact that some (stupid) people really like Pantera and--shudder--the godforsaken Blood Brothers. And a whole lot of other audio putrescence that I don't feel like getting into.
The zenith of angry music, for me at least, is without a single shadow of a doubt the final album by Detroit-based Thoughts of Ionesco. A chronically drug-saturated gaggle of unsavory individuals, this band seemed to transform their guitar strings into sutures and use them to sew a huge, pulsating set of balls onto the beast that was 90's metallic hardcore. Each of their albums is a good musical example of what any real person goes through at the worst moments of their lives. But while their earlier efforts remain admittedly steeped within the dismissive confines of the genre, it was the band's swansong "For Detroit, from Addiction" that forcibly shoved its desperation into my brain, by way of bleeding eardrums. An inscrutable dark mass of an album, it careens carelessly throughout the gutters of human emotion, seemingly being clung to throughout the journey by all forms of hatred, alienation and seething penitence like so many parasites in a cesspool. And yet it somehow manages to lift its head up for the occasional breath of fresh air. If the Necronomicon was a dictionary, under the entry for "catharsis" would be a digital download of this album. Rooted in the violent aggression of impossibly loud, noisy rock, there are moments of murky clarity throughout its running time that seem to belie the overwhelming notion of disgust. These come in the form of somehow hopeful howls from the "falling off of a ladder" vocalist, a single haunting acoustic track that sounds like it was recorded in a haunted Spanish cemetery, a surprisingly well-integrated flirtation with dub song mechanics, and the most out-of-place usage of a saxophone since the Gay Danzig scene in "The Lost Boys."
Chemical problems/imbalances eventually led to the flaming demise of this self-loathing juggernaut, and that is the only way it could have ever made sense. Their music was entirely dependent upon their hatred for both the audience and themselves, so self-destruction was not only inevitable but seemed to be in perpetual motion from their very inception. This final album exists as a monument that honors not only the band's own legacy (they were infamous for the often unforgivable outbreaks of violence and general bad vibes of their live shows), but the entire concept of angry music in general.
There are two types of people in this flawed-but-persistent world who will never give this album a chance: snobbish Pitchfork-reading assholes who fail to see the value in music so shamelessly celebratory of its own apish nature, and straight-up apes in Slipknot t-shirts who feel the incessant urge to "pound" anything that displays even a subtle tinge of genuine emotion. No matter. The first group will continue to strive for the highest levels of mundanity, too obtuse to understand the dualistic concept that without darkness there can be no appreciation of light. And the second group will barrel along too bull-headed to ever realize that they are, in fact, the biggest pussies of all.
As for the rest of us, I guess the best thing we can do is take any piece of art for what it is, attempt to tap into the feelings and experiences of our own lives that may help us better understand where that art is coming from, and ultimately make our own judgements: Thoughts of Ionesco - For Detroit, from Addiction.