On First Listen
The Boredoms: Soul Discharge ‘99



what I’d read of Arto Lindsay’s music described a sexy din. Since the No New York compilation was then out of print, I had to rely on home taping to get the DNA songs on which Lindsay’s noise-nerd reputation rested. Unsatisfied, I snagged copies of Mundo Civilizado, the rather beguiling skronk-and-bass album he released in 1996; and Greed, the Ambitious Lovers project which successfully mimics the sound and sensibility of a Living in the Box album circa 1988. I was floored. DNA’s blurts, squeals, and grunts seemed tame next to the pellucid surface of Lindsay’s subsequent work, under which all manner of kinky talk eddied; his powdery talk-singing palliated his talent for deliciously timed guitar anarchy. Suddenly the suspicion that there was something more truly and more strange when an artist accommodated to conventional forms was confirmed. A terrible methodology was born. A reexamination of Empire Burlesque awaited.

“Do the Boredoms have a Mundo Civilizado?” I asked no one in particular as the compendium of found objects (record-scratching, electro-marimbas, flies hovering above a sleeping ear) in “Your Name is Limitless” accreted into a chorus. Soul Discharge was thus defined. Noting how “Bubblebop Shot” imagines the Beatles’ “Revolution #9” as the theme for a Saturday morning kids’ variety show, I considered the links between avant-garde and how children delight in noise as an end in itself. Effluvia too—boogers, farts, earwax, apple sauce oozing between clenched teeth. Certainly Soul Discharge’s 15 discrete tunelets betray no terror, no weltschmerz, only the stubbornness of a band who perceive rock instrumentation as a means of pissing off your parents (“Song Without Electric Guitars”) after the neighbors upstairs have complained one too many times (“Hawaiian Disco Bollocks”).

This isn’t primitivism; there’s no ism to sully the Boredoms’ affectless devotion. As a title, Confusion Is Sex actually summarizes the Boredoms’ approach more aptly than Sonic Youth. For adolescents, “sex” becomes a kind of flypaper to which every cockamamie explanation for what’s happening to them physically and emotionally adheres; what you actually fantasize doing to (or with) the pretty girl in the second row remains amorphous, hence unreal. “TV Scorpion” is like that friend of yours in the ninth grade that talked about sticking his dick between a girl’s tits—like that. I understand why Sonic Youth love them: to educated New Yorkers who never met a principle that didn’t require some aural manifesto, the Boredoms incarnate a suspect, prenatal purity.

Call it cheerful colonialism. Well, unless you prefer the Boredoms to Sonic Youth, and I don’t. Sometimes you need principles, even if you’re going to abandon them for new ones in the time it takes to detune your guitar. Even Tom Zé—the artist whose own experiments in chordal readymades anticipated the Boredoms by several years—managed to suggest that behind Marcel Duchamp there was an Errol Flynn in grizzled-satyr mode. Maybe there’s a Boredoms record in their oeuvre which doesn’t rely on a splendidly monstrous title like “JB Dick + Tin Turner Pussy Badsmell” as anything other than a Descendants take-off. As adolescence recedes into memory—as predictability becomes a bigger problem than boredom—the compulsion to sail on rough seas diminishes.


By: Alfred Soto
Published on: 2006-10-24
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