Recycled Rock N Roll

Recycled Rock N Roll

Monday, June 11, 2012

The User's Guide to Skinny Puppy, Part IV - Music

Many years ago I walked into an AT&T store to get my first cell phone. Finally, I was joining the 21st century. At the time I was wearing a black Skinny Puppy t-shirt with a white picture of the cover of the single for "Dig It." It's a Durer illustration of a ghost rising from the grave. Can't get more gothic than that.

An attractive woman was near the entrance when I walked in. She looked at me and said, "Nice shirt."

People who are really into the whole gothic thing always show it just a little, even in a professional environment. Sure, she had really black hair, and a black blouse, and the woman was a little on the pale side, but aside from her really dark violet fingernails there wasn't a band insignia or any sort of horror iconography to express it. I somehow still knew she was into the scene from the whole way she was dressed, though.

I thanked her and bought a cell phone from another person working there. As I was going through the process the woman in black walked by and said, "Don't charge him for the setup charge." That was good news, because it was $20 and I really didn't want to pay that much money.

I thanked her again and left, but the point of the story was listening to Skinny Puppy paid off, that day. Since I paid $12 for the t-shirt, I was basically paid $8 to advertise for the band instead of paying $12 for the honor and then another $20 for a cell phone years later.

When we last left off I was kind of making fun of the Cleanse, Fold and Manipulate album. No, the music on that particular LP does not sound anything like the The Beach Boys. I wasn't kidding when I talked about some music just being so totally strange that only very dedicated fans are into it...the mainstream is left behind.

There are songs on the album that do indeed rock. By rock, though, I don't mean screeching guitar solos, badass lyrics and bass lines humming above pounding, inspirational drum beats.What I do mean is that one of the tracks on the album, "First Aid," whomps and stomps with it's own particular physics, depriving you of the easy, enjoyable moments guitars and generic rock conventions can usually give you, but giving you so much more.

Instead, "First Aid" gives you roaring, apocalyptic vocals ("The evolution of...DECAY!") and powerful beats, so many blasts and distorted drum impacts, overlapping each other like a vast machine stomping across and industrial landscape, overwhelming and unstoppable.

The synth in that track is also a favorite of mine. There's so much going on with that song, with so many dark notes and warped chords, that I get something new out of listening to it every time, although I couldn't possibly tell you what the hell the song is about.

"Addiction" is similar to "First Aid." Blasts and bangs and electronic, distorted, warping tones spiking through scary lyrics. Well, that's the show you bought the tickets to see, right?

There's even some strange sound effects and samples going on, distorted, distant voices calling our with some sort of horrible dissonance underneath the beat, like ghosts screaming softly from hyperspace. It's a great song, though, because the beat has a somewhat rapid punch with enough swings and changes here and there to keep you listening.

In contrast, songs like "Shadow Cast" don't give you much to work with. Sure, there are a lot of juicy, bloody sound effects, courtesy of the film The Texas Chainsaw Massacre II, but this isn't a song that you could hum while you were painting a fence on a nice spring afternoon.

Then there are songs like "The Mourn." What the fuck is going on in this song? It sounds like the last transmission of the AI of a dying space station, plunging to it's doom on Pluto. No, wait, it's not a song. It's just a nightmarish series of sound effects.

"Anger" is another song that either scares you off or makes you hungry for more, depending on how much you love the 'Puppy. At first it sounds cool, that plinking, horrific beat accompanied by powerful, icy notes detonating across a somewhat progressive backbeat, but as the song goes on and on, you are denied the memorable lyrics, anthem chorus or serious development that other songs would give you. If you were expecting a guitar solo, "Anger" will also deny you. Sorry.

There's also a song called "Draining Faces" that is just straight up so much like something out of a horror flick that I never want to listen to it in a dark room alone at 3 a.m. I mean, fuck that. But what's compelling about that track is how it picks up and takes off, over and over again, like some grooving, terrifying biomechanical creation about halfway through, as if rewarding you for the courage of enduring the first half.

I like "Draining Faces" and I love everything else on this album, but I've learned to never try to win potential new 'Puppy converts over with Cleanse, Fold and Manipulate. It just doesn't happen unless the person had seriously whacked musical tastes to begin with, and if they did they probably already are into Skinny Puppy, anyhow.

Here's a song a lot of people will like, though.

1 comment:

  1. Yuck, Pro-Test is one of my least favorite Puppy songs ever!