Smack My Bitch Up
By Pajiba Music Writers | Music | March 11, 2009 |
By Pajiba Music Writers | Music | March 11, 2009 |
No fucking around today. We are here to rock your goddamn faces off.
The Prodigy, masters of big beat techno-punk electro-noise, are back after five years of no full-length releases, and they are back with a vengeance. The controversial, loudmouthed, energetic British trio, consisting of Liam Howlett, Keith Flint, and Maxim Reality once again straddle the line between innovative and repetitive.
I say repetitive because, if you enjoy The Prodigy, you pretty much know what to expect. You’re going to get staccato rhythms, tooth-rattling bass beats, whirrings, snappings, clangings, howling and all manner of other aural bombardments, layered with vocal samples, smatterings of heavily accented vocals. This hasn’t changed much since the release of Music For The Jilted Generation (although 2005’s Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned strayed slightly). Fortunately for me, that formula works quite well, thank you very much.
I say innovative because despite that basic formula, it’s only the basic framework. What The Prodigy creates with that framework is frequently an impressive feat, and Invaders Must Die is no exception. It’s more akin to Fat of the Land, their seminal 1997 record. While there’s no contentious argument-making track like “Smack My Bitch Up” (horrible title, fantastic song), it’s still full of the same aggressive, nasty beats and production that made that and Jilted great. The opening titular track kicks right into high gear, with a militaristic marching beat and high pitched synth noises that are interspersed with the proclamation, “INVADERS MUST DIE!” That trend continues with the snappy “Thunder”, which features Maxim chanting “I hear thunder but there’s no rain / This kind of thunder breaks walls and window pane” over and over. As usual with almost all techno music, you must see the steady beauty in repetition for it to have any value for you, particularly when it comes to lyrics.
They do change the tempo up on the final track, “Stand Up”, drawing on horn samples and a slower tempo for an almost jazzy sound. It’s an oddly fulfilling way to close out the album, almost a reward for those who make it through the sonic smack in the face that the rest of the album is. In any event, Invaders Must Die is, for the most part, exctly what you’d want in a Prodigy album. Fast paced, raucous, fist-pumping badassness with excellent, creative production.
Ok, quick trivia question: Which of these does not belong?
1. Taylor Swift
2. Lamb of God
3. The Jonas Brothers
If you answered B, you are correct. If you answered A and C, you are even more correct. But you want to know what these all have in common? Top three on the Billboard 200. Yes, that’s right. Lamb of God is currently sandwiched between two signs of the apocalypse, but this is no reason to turn away—in fact, it should give you more reason to want to hear Lamb of God’s latest release, Wrath. Just think: Lamb of God, formerly known as Burn the Priest, is one of two solid albums in the top five (the other being the Slumdog Millionaire soundtrack), and is probably one of the best weapons against the aforementioned inevitable apocalypse, in addition to it being fabulous zombie-killing music. (I swear, when the world ends, it won’t be because of metal heads. It will be because of tweenies. Mark my words. You’ll be thanking your loser second cousin that hordes samurai weaponry and the entire discography of Slayer, Megadeth, and Anthrax and lives in your aunt’s dark basement, because he will save your ass. The hero of tomorrow, people. Mark it.)
As usual, I procrastinated this assignment as long as possible. So as of Sunday, I still hadn’t heard the album, and with a full day of stoned yoga, college basketball (who’s house? HEELS HOUSE!), and band practice ahead of me, I didn’t think I was going to be able to fit it in. This had me uber stressed out; for one I love to write about music, and for two I didn’t want to let TK down (because we all know how little it takes to make him blow his top, now don’t we Sweatervest? (ed. note: you die next -TK)). Luckily, I had a good 45-minute drive to band practice, and thus time to at least give it an initial listen. I highly recommend this method to anyone interested in this album. Get the album, pull out a map, plan the curviest route you can find (eliminating stoplights wherever possible), get in your car, and drive really fast.
I guess I can appreciate this because I come from a driving culture—when you grow up in the mountains near a tiny mountain metropolis, there is not much to do other than drive around, listen to music, and get stoned. (Rinse. Repeat.)
Okokokokok. OK: So, the album.
This is some of the cleanest work I have heard from any metal band, and definitely from Lamb of God. I thought their last album, the Grammy-nominated Sacrament, was some of their best work, but this album has edged that bar even higher. To say they are one of the best metal bands currently — especially in the mainstream metal scene — would be a hard statement to refute.
The album starts out with the beautiful, Metallica-esque ballad, “The Passing,” that could elicit the green from any Americana singer-songwriter folk artist. The guitar work from Mark Morton and Willie Alder is freakin’ impeccable, and is an excellent example of how musically intelligent this contemporary metal movement is. Many times, I have been listening to a metal band, and where one person might hear screechy screamy grindy noise, I hear pieces of Stravinsky and his love for the octatonic scale. The album builds quickly from that first song, going headlong into the evilly drummed “In Your Words.” (Here is where, during your drive, you want to be at the top of a good hill. Wait at the top of the hill—regardless of traffic—until the first beats of the first measure hit; then, remove your foot from the brake pedal and slam on the gas. It is ALMOST better than sex.) Chris Adler! What are you on, you crazy, crazy fucker? The man is an INSANE drummer. Hell, the album is worth a listen just to hear his sixty-fourth notes. (And hell, did I hear a hundred twenty-eighth note????? Pa-JEEBUS.)
You know how I mentioned this was some of the cleanest metal work I’ve heard in a while? Clean. Clean screaming, clean squealing, clean drumming—everything is literally SPOT ON. And in spite of Lamb of God being the poster child of the new American metal movement, this album is very accessible to non-metal music fans—which is probably why it debuted at the No. 2 spot on the Billboard 200.
There are so many good moments on this album, and to the seasoned, appreciative listener, it will definitely keep you engaged. In fact, as I listened to the album again on my way home at midnight, UP the twisty ass road this time, it was even better than the first listen. I’m listening to it right now, in fact, and I’m sitting at my desk at my 9to5, doing some light head…well, nodding more than banging…and enjoying the shit out of it again.
If you aren’t into metal but you want to be, check it out. If you aren’t into metal but want to pretend like you know what you are talking about, name-drop it. If you aren’t into metal but want to bang a chick that is, well, sorry buddy: You are shit-outta. We can call that bullshit out miles away. And if you aren’t into metal but want to bang a guy that is, all you have to do is say so.
Thursday has been around for a while now. The New Jersey post-hardcore band started out when they were mere teenagers, playing their first show at the tender age of 19 (sorry, Christian). 10+ years and five albums later, they’ve certainly evolved and matured. Their roots are undeniably emo, their sound at times painfully earnest. But they continue to rock and roll with reckless abandon, and their themes of loss, love, social activism and a better tomorrow, while at times seem a bit… much, come from an honest place. Of course, what helps is that they’re also damn talented.
Common Existence is easily one of their best albums, on par with my personal favorite, War All The Time. They continue to mix it up, with their songs incorporating numerous time changes and tempo swings. Vocally, Geoff Rickly switches easily between melodic singing, the occasional sotto voce spoken verse, and throat-scraping screams. It all flows smoothly, weaving around a solid rhythm section. It’s a can be a cacophonous crowd up there with Thursday — a six-person outfit with two guitarists, a keyboard, drummer, bass and singer, with hardcore aspirations can create a hell of a lot of noise. Beautiful, intricate noise, but noise nonetheless.
But noise isn’t all there is to Thursday, and in fact the hardcore label isn’t really fitting. Somewhere between the limp sound of bands like Saves The Day and the brutal assault of Warship is where they lie. There’s something for everyone here. “Beyond The Visible Spectrum” is an almost gentle piece — it takes a mellifluous road before it kicks into a sped up rock and roll chorus. Rickly’s vocal skills are on full display, with none of his screaming, and instead a multi-layered performance of heartfelt singing and soft crooning. It’s a sweet, hopelessly optimistic song, with “Everyone we love / Everyone you love surrounds you” as the refrain, almost incongruous with some of their more percussion and scream heavy efforts.
But then, this isn’t War All The Time. This is, in some ways, a gentler effort. “Love Has Led Us Astray” is another softer side of Thursday — subtle strumming, whisper-like singing, with a complicated bit of drumwork making up the background. But though I expected an explosion to take place somewhere in the song… it just never happened. It really was just a different kind of song altogether. That isn’t to say that they’ve lost their ability to kick it up a notch. The opener for the album, “Resuscitation of a Dead Man” starts off fast and heavy and doesn’t slow down, and Rickly’s full vocal array is on display. “Subway Funeral” features that signature cry, a fast-paced piece that abruptly halts at the 2:30 mark to switch to steady strumming and a lone voice calling out, and then blasts back to life with a wall of guitar noise powering it, Sonic Youth-style. Rickly picks up steam as he calls out “It’s a silver thread hanging from the hem of heaven / And you’re tied to other end / A needle that’s been buried in the hay / But I’ll find you, I’ll find you,” with that last “you” screamed out with everything he’s got.
If you want to watch a band evolve, go through their catalogue album by album. This isn’t to say they’ve gotten better with each album — just different. With Common Existence as the fifth full-length album in their repertoire, Thursday may have created their most accessible album — and by simple accident, one of their best as well.