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Tuesday, December 06, 2005


There are certain bands out there that one is expected to like, if nothing else than to maintain credibility as someone who is into good music. Some of these make sense, some do not. Like when a few years ago I was supposed to realize how good The Strokes were. You know the sort of bands I'm talking about. So today I shall be explaining my efforts to understand why I should like Skinny Puppy, one of the more important industrial bands in the history of the genre. Before I jump into the shit-talkin' I want to clarify that I have done my homework on this one. I once read that entire RE/SEARCH book about industrial music, so I know why it's important to take William S. Burroughs and ABBA seriously, though I skipped over that five page bit where Genesis P. Orridge describes vomiting in peoples open wounds or whatever the fuck he used to do onstage. I also own five Skinny Puppy albums. I would pick them up periodically in music stores over the years. "Oh, Skinny Puppy. I hear they're good, I should get that." Then I would listen to the cd, decide I would give it a chance at some later point, then file it with all the other cds I had forgotten I already owned.

But now I have a daily commute that works out to about 5 hours round trip, so I figured I would finally give all those cds a chance. And boy are they dull. I mean I like the cool voice filter they constantly use to disguise the fact that he's singing about his distributor cap or whatever, and I bet about 10-15 years ago I would have been amazed by how psychotic their drumbeats are, but I could say the same thing about Roni Size, and I strongly doubt I'll ever listen to one of his albums again. The problem is that for like four and a half albums, thats all you get, fucked up drumbeats and distorted vocals. Oh right, and sci-fi movie samples, these being from the golden age of sampling random bullshit. I was so happy when they actually got around to adding a third instrument in, I listened to that song four times in a row. I think I know who to blame for making most industrial music sound like something that just puts me to sleep.

So my question is, am I just missing something here? Am I just too bourgeois to like their raw, intense music? Did I pick the wrong 5 albums? I've heard songs by Cevin Key and Dave Ogilve that I've thought were brilliant, so where are they in the discography?

Segue goes here.

While searching around all of these wonderful net labels, I kept coming across the term "drone" as a genre. Always curious for new sounds I did a wee bit of research on what this was. Despite dire warnings, I still pressed forward into actually hearing a few examples. For instance, Pitchfork has more than a few glowing reviews, which is usually a pretty good indicator that something is shit, but you knew that already. Then I went to everyones favorite, Wikipedia, to see what they had to say on the subject:
Music from dronology artists can also fit into the genres of new age, found sound, minimalist music, and wall of sound. Thus, while the produced sound is ostensibly simple and recognizable as dronology, the genre is actually quite varied. Artists might, for example, compose relatively brief works that use only a one or two notes played on a single instrument; however, they might also add complexity by intruducing layer upon layer of instruments, effects, and electronics that weave together to produce a consistent, sustained sound.
In translation, Wikipedia shouldn't be letting their articles be written by drone apologists.

I really wanted to like drone. Why? Because I like the ideal drone goes for, feeling introspective from a few simple sounds repeated over a very long time. Plus then I would get to use words like "textural" and "soundscapes", like a real music critic. So I got a hold of a Stars of the Lid album ("The Tired Sounds of Stars of the Lid"), and did everything I was supposed to. Late at night, low energy, hit play, then lie down, relax, and see where your mind takes you. And it did work. I appreciated the melancholy wonder of an abandoned mental hospital at sunset. Five minutes later I had to turn that tedious shit off. Even though nothing changes in a song for about 20 minutes, one's reaction quickly moves to boredom and annoyance all at once. One could get the same effect from sticking a harmonica in a dishwasher, and I understand that there is occasional need for the sounds of a good harmonica washing, but this was no good. And I can understand the appeal of having a song that takes half an hour to fully develop, but when "development" means adding a whooshing noise by the end of the song, you may want to shorten your track a bit.


Blogger Jonathan said...

here's your segue:
twelve years ago - maybe - i came across skinny puppy's album last rites. i haven't listened to it much since then, probably not at all for at least seven years... so all of this is distant memory. but i do remember two tracks. one was "killing game", which i thought was ok; the other was (i think) the last track, which is for the most part a nice bit of drone. that one introduced me to the idea of filtering distortion. iirc it was essentially a redux of the rest of the album. ah - it was called "download".
i can't believe this stuff is still in my brain, taking up valuable space.

2:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Try VivisectVI, Too Dark Park or Last Rites - in that order. Also, make sure to check out Doubting Thomas and Download.

To me, SP is still miles ahead of what passes for "industrial" these days, but that's not saying a whole lot, is it?

6:08 AM  

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