Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Album Review: Aids Wolf - Cities Of Glass

I am uncertain of how to describe Aids Wolf. I could agree with their surmise that they have embraced an intentionally ugly aesthetic in a sort of post-modern ironic statement and are pursuing pure art through pure trash. Then I would simply laugh at my pretentious art analysis, go with my gut feelings (which generally serve me well) and just call it like I see it. This music is fucking terrible, and I don't feel compelled to justify my reactions. I will however, in the interest of true critique, qualify it.

1. Oh God, My Fucking Head

Even if I accept the high brow answer (ironic statements about modern culture and a dangerous aesthetic) I am left with a splitting headache and sour expression on my face after panning through this record. I can't get around it. It's a physical reaction. Was Aids Wolf going for this when they brought this concept to the studio? Are they in league with a manufacturer of anti-inflammatories? The motivation behind this is unclear to me, but one thing is clear to me. My fucking head hurts.

2. When would I actually want to listen to this?

As a listener of music I have to wonder, "When would I want to put this on?" and the only answer I can come up with is coming home from a spectacularly successful and fulfilling day and feeling some sort of guilt at my excellent mood. I would think to myself guiltily, "I haven't suffered nearly enough today. I should give myself a really good splitting headache to be miserable and angry about." I can honestly say I've never felt this way so I'm uncertain about when I'd really ever pick this up out of my musical collection as "what I need right now'. Perhaps there is a listener out there who can enlighten me as to another compelling reason to want to listen to this screeching nightmare.

3. Seriously? This is serious? Is it?

If you checked out the PDF I linked to before, you can surmise that these guys are serious about what they do.....maybe. It's a diatribe about the nature of badassery through history. Is this tongue and cheek? Is this serious work? They skirt the line between pretension and absurdity, a concept that while laudable in it's intent fails to impress with it's aesthetic. I like structure, I like melody and I like harmony. I don't think I'm alone in this and this recording lacks any sense of any of these things. This is a Dadaist interpretation of music and as much as I appreciate what the finger pointing and laughing did for the field of visual art, I don't follow any Dadaist work past the first glance because it bears no repeated interpretation. Dadaist art is much like this album, it is a one note joke pointed at modern culture. I am reminded of the Downtown Music scene pioneered by Yoko Ono/Fluxus and frankly, when Yoko Ono starts popping up in my analysis, I run the other way.

4. What's the point?

Anti-art is boring. There, I said it. I think anyone who has traveled around the art and music world enough gets to a point where they are disillusioned with the surface level, meaningless pretension and fevered egos tainting the collective unconscious. I know that I have. The way I see it is if you're sick to death of the entire bullshit, fake-ass, over commercialized hype machine that is modern culture; quit bitching about it and make something honest. Hijack the machine and bring culture back down to the ground where it belongs. Make a record that makes me stand up and pay attention. An album that makes me angry, sad, sexy, happy, wistful or fuck; anything but confused. Make me think, make me feel dammit. Don't stand in the corner laughing at the makeup ridden overproduced people chattering mindlessly at the party. Come join the real conversation over here and contribute to it.

I suppose there's people out there who like Aids Wolf and their kin. If their wasn't then their career would be short lived and from the looks of it they're actually doing pretty well. I'd love to hear from someone who's a fan and give me some context to work from. Especially if you go to this show at The Aristery. All I can say is that it was a unique experience and one I don't care to repeat. Oh yeah, and this album is fucking terrible.

Aids Wolf plays live in Portland April 2nd, 2009 at The Aristery.
$6.00 7:30 PM
4315 SE Division St
Portland, OR 97206

Eriq Nelson.

9 comments:

Jess Gulbranson said...

"They're no Rancid Hellspawn."

t wiggins said...

this is how i feel about the fuck buttons.

Jake said...

I've been struggling for a way to bring context to noise-rock and other "anti-art". I can only ask if you think there's something special about harmony as opposed to dissonance? A good idea to entertain is that it isn't, and a whole new landscape of music might start making sense.

For something more concrete, check out the new york no wave movement (teenage jesus & the jerks, MARS, DNA, James Chance / Contortions), This Heat, and Arab on Radar.

Eriq Nelson said...

Well, I think there is a disaster waiting in the wings of focusing too much on either. Too much harmony and music comes off sounding schmaltzy, too much dissonance and I have a monster headache. I like balance. The best composers in the world always have a hint of dissonance, even in their romance pieces. It's what gives music texture.

I'll take a listen at some no-wave. I can't say that I've ever sought after free jazz and its ilk but I am determined to be open minded.

I'll let you know how it turns out!
Thanks!

Jess Gulbranson said...

CopShootCop!

maxr said...

This review is ridiculous. You don't even fucking pretend to understand the point and the beauty (yeah, beauty) of noise rock. Why don't you try it with an open mind? This review is more pretentious and assholish than this band is.

Eriq Nelson said...

To maxr
Ahem.
From the article:

"I suppose there's people out there who like Aids Wolf and their kin. If their wasn't then their career would be short lived and from the looks of it they're actually doing pretty well. I'd love to hear from someone who's a fan and give me some context to work from."

And my previous comments:

"I'll take a listen at some no-wave. I can't say that I've ever sought after free jazz and its ilk but I am determined to be open minded."

I would appreciate your qualifications that I am pretentious, or assholish in any regard. You are correct, I don't understand the point or beauty of noise rock. I seek an explanation of it. Provide so sir. I am all ears.

Riccsadism said...

You don't need an explanation. If you are a music reviewer, that obviously implies that music is a big part of your life and you listen to a lot of it. If at this point in your life a band that is as inaccessible as Aids Wolf, witch, if you really know about music history, isn't
THAT inaccessible at all, doesn't make sense to you, just drop it. You don't need Aids Wolf or ''noise rock'' (whatever the fuck THAT means) and Aids Wolf, ''noise rock'', improv, free jazz, contemporary classical, industrial, power-electronics, i could go on and on...., certainly doesn't need you. Keep listening to modest mouse and artic monkeys. And whatever you do; DO NOT look into John Cage. Your head might explode.

Jess Gulbranson said...

Listen, Algernon, your second paragraph-thing doesn't make any damn sense. Try again.