Hey there my pretty little chillun, and welcome to the second installment of my article. If you did not catch the first post, you can click here to read part one. I hope that this article will give some people some insight into this genre of rock and moreover what rock is supposed to be and shouldn’t have been. There will be plenty more preaching coming soon, so stick around…
What GY!BE do is quite deliberate. This isn’t always the case. For instance, take Explosions in the Sky. This band does not employ noise quite nearly as much as GY!BE, however there is a crushing monotony, a slow churning cadence to several of their albums. In the absence of noise, they employ quietness, or something nearing it. With this band, the voice of the song is expressed through tonecolor and dynamics.
Every single one of their songs crescendo from a barely audible twangy guitar, a lulling bassline, and a soft kiss on the high hat. They build the songs into auditory explosions, each instrument beaten so hard by its owners it becomes a wall of waves of articulated noise.
You can hear each instrument clearly, but when overlapping each other in a frenzy, it sounds like a tornado from 10 feet away.
To see this band live is heartbreakingly-intense. It’s like watching four tragic love stories at the same time as they gently caress the strings of their instruments, the drum kit softly kissed by the drummers sticks, then suddenly falling violently upon them. The destruction of the instruments, the wall of noise couple together to articulate a passion, fervor, and earnestness not seen in rock ‘n’ roll since the first proto punk bands stumbled onto the scene with nary a fucking clue about what to do with the instruments before them. Yes, it’s very pretty to listen to, but that’s not the point.
The strong point of any Explosions in the Sky song never lies in the lilting guitars or the precise drumming. It’s in the frenzy and fever of the climax when they can barely hold on to their instruments because their quite literally hitting them so hard. At those moments do you find yourself lost in the storm.
The Mars Volta has gained the most success commercially out of all of these bands and has had the most deviation from album-to-album. The two founding members of The Mars Volta were previously in a very competent punk band known as At The Drive-In, who had the potential (not unlike their predecessors The Refused) to single-handedly revive punk rock; as it stands, punks undead corpse continues to be whored out by Hollywood and Madison Ave. That is a topic for another article however.
The Mars Volta’s punk roots are very apparent in each of their records. They’ve mashed together a number of genres, including Progressive rock, Samba, Latin-Jazz, and metal. I would argue that The Mars Volta had reached their climax with Frances the Mute, their last truly unique record. Their last album, Bedlam in Goliath, was an exercise in masturbation, with Amputecture, their third album a harbinger of the dull, self-absorbed, sticky mess that was to come (no pun intended). I won’t discuss these albums in detail since they suck and have nothing to do with my point, directly at least.
So I guess the best place to start is at the beginning. Following the Tremulant EP which only hinted at the potential of this band in its infancy, the band released De-loused In the Comatorium, very much a textbook example of a progressive rock album. The primary and only really important difference is their approach to the formula. The album begins with Inertiatic ESP, an intro to the fury of musicianship that is to unfold for the next hour. The tracks melt right into each other with no pausing or stopping; this album has a narrative which isn’t surprising considering it had been based on a short story written by the guitarist.
However obtuse and cryptic the lyrics may be, the strength of the narrative, once again, lies in the frenzy and noise this band has managed to marry with competent musicianship. I’m not implying that this band intentionally tries to sound like they suck, but they understand that noise, when executed properly and within context, can be just as potent as any instrument. This is what was at the heart of the aesthetic of rock ‘n’ roll. These musicians just happen to know what they’re doing as well.
The fact that they are so pretentious and self-absorbed and unwilling to produce something that does not comply with their aesthetic is what allows them to reconcile chaos and order in their music. It is the only thing that keeps them from creating something that may sound similar and just as good, but is in fact only an approximation of what is good and is strange and disjointed merely for the sake of being different and strange and disjointed.
Noise is Rock is Noise
Rock music as we know it is in a strange time. It’s become a massive dust-bunny picking up the scraps of whatever commodious gimmick has passed through our pop culture collective.You can’t even tell what little insignificant speck of dirt started this whole snowball effect.Rock has become a disturbingly polished caricature of itself.
Indeed, rock is still a lot of dumb noise, but now it’s not saying anything. It’s only trying to sell us something. If you’re gonna make some fucking noise, do it right.
These bands do it right. Of course, if you don’t care for noise like I do, then don’t listen to me. I personally have not grown out of the childish lust for disorder and noise aesthetically, though many tend to.Understandably, many do not have patience for this music. It takes listening, and it’s very very difficult at times. Listening to these bands is a lot like losing yourself in an introspective nightmare during a bad mushroom trip. Who needs all those bad vibes? Well, I don’t, but these bands do such a good job I can’t help it.
When all of rock music has become a caricature of itself, a slick bombastic figure mocking the listener with its put-on charisma and swagger plastered across it like some cheap accessory, it’s pretty refreshing to see something that’s got just as much bombast, if not more and is at least earnest about it because it isn’t too self-aware for its own good.