o yes, it’s Boredoms Week on Stylus, and the Jukebox is getting in on the act as well. Seven tracks plucked from across the span of their career to date, perused over by four Stylus writers; two of them have no experience of the Jukebox, two of them have no experience of the Boredoms, and the other one’s Ian Mathers. In a slight break with Jukebox tradition, the songs are ordered chronologically rather than by score, and so we kick off with a number from 1989’s Soul Discharge album. Mr. Orme, if you’d do the honors…
Mike Orme: It’s always a trip to hear non-rock influences in early Boredoms, and this is about as conventional as they get. Yoshimi wails like a jazz singer and the band “attempts” to start a funk track over and over, but mess it up every time, like hyperactive children tending a rose garden. Soul music for idiots.
Iain Forrester: So, uh, I haven’t ever listened to Boredoms before. Nor anything at all like them. As a starting place, then, “Bubblepop Shot” is pretty intimidating, dispensing with silly ideas like flow or a tune in favor of making noises with whatever they can. It demands attention like nothing else I can think of, and even beyond the initial shock value the sense of them testing their limits makes for an exciting listen.
Todd Hutlock: The opening bit where it has the repeated voice and guitar riff was kinda cool in a totally goofed-out, rhythmic kinda way. Once the metallic stuff hits, though, it sounded a bit more like a Weird Al Yankovic take on Slipknot. I can see how this sort of thing would easily gain a cult audience, though. For a while there, Gwar were pretty popular, too. I like my noise music, and I like funny stuff, but this doesn’t work for me. Not to mention, I suspect that they were not actually trying to be funny here.
Ian Mathers: I could swear at one point they drop in a brief bit of “We Will Rock You,” and while I may just be misunderstanding what they’re screaming, it’d be fitting; yes, “Bubblepop Shot” is ear-splittingly loud, possessing its own kind of lurching logic, and featuring crazed Muppet vocals, but it also rocks harder than a hundred bar bands.
Mike Orme: OK, this is another high point of their “stupid funk” bits. They get so much mileage out of that bluesy tonic-to-minor-third bit, it almost draws a line straight from their madness to the hard rock that came before them. Still, how the hell did this get on Reprise?
Iain Forrester: Stretching to seven minutes with barely any more structure than “Bubblepop Shot” and none of the same thrill, it’s all too easy to want to switch off (mentally or literally) well before this goes anywhere. As far as positives go, I guess there’s something to be said for a track that gives you a sense of achievement when you reach the end.
Todd Hutlock: I used to work in a college bookstore and we would sell copies of these albums hand over fist at 20-some bucks a piece. I have a feeling that well over half of those people had no idea what they were buying, and the other half read about it in The Wire. Then there was the guy who had the crazy Japanese fetish. He weighed like 250 pounds (he used to be a competitive cyclist, then got hurt and couldn’t ride, so he just exploded) and he would literally buy any sort of Japanese music we could get for him, like $200 worth at a time. I’m wondering if he really enjoyed this. And now that I think about it, I’m wondering if I really want to know what he was doing with it. Moving on...
Ian Mathers: It’s not just that “Bo Go” is nearly twice as long as “Bubblepop Shot,” it’s that with the exception of the section beginning with the sound of a flying saucer hovering in the background it’s not as astoundingly ferocious as the former song. It’s more skronky than stompy and still mildly brain-melting, but not as likely to do the same to your face.
Mike Orme: I’ve always thought that the riff here is bigger than anything Black Sabbath could ever come up with, but it retains that clinical “otherness” that the group was able to retain throughout their eager early years. How anthemic is this? How ill-prepared are we for the thrash in the last forty-five seconds?
Iain Forrester: A concentrated attack on the ears rather than the previous unfocused tracks, it’s just a touch too repetitive for my liking but has a couple of fantastic moments. Having had to turn up the volume to hear the start, the moment the drums kick in is VERY LOUD INDEED and the impression is of a fearsome zombie army marching onwards. Then there’s the awesome ending, where, after a fakeout finish, they stop messing around and get fantastically brutal.
Todd Hutlock: I dig the call-and-response thing at the beginning here, and I think I would have liked the track a lot more if it had just gone on like that for five minutes, as the wank-tastic metal guitar riffs are getting a bit old for me at this point. At least this gets a cool rhythm going and has a continuity and flow to it, and has a real song structure compared to the previous tracks. It just doesn’t happen to be a song I particularly like. A step in the right direction, but they aren’t at the point where I would want to hear them again.
Ian Mathers: After a whole 45 seconds of “ACID!” “POLICE-AHH!” I was kind of afraid this would just be a showcase for the astounding lung capacities of the Boredoms’ resident screamers, but sure enough that guitar kicks in, followed by one hell of a groove. Things get louder but keep that same slow building momentum, and the result would do the Stooges proud, in spirit if not necessarily in form.
[Super Roots 7]
Mike Orme: After the fractured and difficult Super Roots 6, this is not only a 180, but an orthogonal turn into some other dimension. This is one of the first places we see the motorik percussion and smoother guitar that would come to define their later works. They’re still working out here how to work in a larger sonic space, but it’s the beginning of several huge steps forward.
Iain Forrester: How to sum up an expansive headtrip like this in a snappy single-style review? I mean, it takes a couple of listens just to stop admiring its enormity and start taking in the details. There’s rather a lot of those too, ideas flowing and surging with barely a chance to take a breath until the gorgeous, tranquil end section. Everything somehow seems to crystallise into a natural whole, though, and this is definitely the highlight of my first Boredoms experience.
Todd Hutlock: This sounds like Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers’ “Roadrunner” remixed by Can. That’s a very good thing. The guitars are propulsive and driving rather than sludgy and hamfisted, and the drumming is just incredible. Very Krautrocky. I think the sound effects add just enough color to the sound without overwhelming it, and the whole thing works better without the screaming vocal action. When it kicks into high gear for the second half, it gets even better. I’m not sure it needed to be 20 minutes long, but I didn’t switch it off either, mainly because I was worried I was going to miss something exciting—and sure enough, there was the space-dub coda. More like this, please.
Ian Mathers: It’s kind of interesting being given a 20 minute song to evaluate for the Jukebox; the problem is, at least with “7 (Boriginal)” that it’s not really one song. The first 6 ½ minutes are completely awesome, 10/10, perfect for anyone who likes the long-form freakouts of bands like Oneida or Yo La Tengo. The next ten minutes or so is less intense but still pretty damn satisfying, but the last three or four really outstay their welcome. I know they’re not really a singles band, but I’d love to have an edit of just that first part.
Mike Orme: There’s still a little psychedelic and soul here, hearkening back to their earlier work, but it’s been honed to a point. The first half is a hypnotic meditation. Then we get a classic Bore-thrash, but surprisingly there’s an element of restraint, from which emerges something not unlike a religious experience. This track maybe holds on to the young Boredoms a little too much, but that’s partly because they’re saying goodbye.
Iain Forrester: Anyone ever played the Commodore 64 game Impossible Mission? No? Well the end of this sounds a lot like the despairing “AAAAaaahhhhhh!” that your cool secret agent character would make as he fell down a hole and died again. The rest mainly sounds like the weird noises produced by trying to play that game by putting it in your stereo.
Todd Hutlock: The vocal intro goes on far too long, like some stoned Beach Boys practice recording or something. Then, the whole noise payoff thing was just too predictable. I didn’t like the early noise material much, but at least you could tell they put some effort into it. This just sounds lazy.
Ian Mathers: On the one hand, they’re clearly more refined; the yelling turned to loud chanting, the noise burst at the end more consonant than before, an actual sense of structure to the song. But if that makes them less bracing, it also lets them be more effective; “Super AE” may not be quite a giddily exciting as “Super You” (and really, what is?) but it’s still a prime slice of one of the finest post-Neu! Albums ever made.
[Super Roots 8]
Mike Orme: It’s tough to tell how all the rich percussion was created and recorded, but suffice it to say that some of it came from eYe’s emergent facility with drum machines, and some of it came from outer fucking space.
Iain Forrester: It’s all about the drumming. It’s insane. Nothing, or no one, should be able to go that fast. The touches around the edges, like the pretty drifting intro are excellent too, but who even needs them when those drums are there?
Todd Hutlock: Very subtle, spacey intro followed by some distinctly island-centric sounds. This was most unexpected, and while it sort of sounds like they should have some fire dancers in grass skirts behind them, the fusion of sounds actually works pretty well. This strikes me as something I’d stick into the middle of a mix CD, just for kicks. It also sounds like it might grow on me with repeated listens, so I’ll be keeping this one in iTunes for the time being.
Ian Mathers: Frantic, clattering hand percussion that brings to mind Muslimgauze is married with giddily wailing vocals to form the shortest and least expected track for this Jukebox. It’s still noisy but also quite pretty, definitely the closest these tracks come to pop (if still wonderful worlds away).
[Vision Creation Newsun]
Mike Orme: Perhaps the most recognizable eight notes in the entirety of the Boredoms repertoire, and for good reason. This illustrates what the group does best: it draws you in and attunes you to its atmospheric idiosynrasies, and then turns it up six hundred degrees and rockets out of the solar system at light speed. The dynamics shifts here are incredible and timely, and reflect the new Boredoms at the top of their game.
Iain Forrester: I think that if I heard this on its own, rather than as the end of a whistle-stop tour through The Boredoms’ career, I would be even less keen on it. It’s fascinating to hear them progress from making as many ugly noises as possible to this, and some of the electronic whooshes are good, but it’s the only time that they sound like they’re reaching for ambitions beyond their reach.
Todd Hutlock: A bit lost sounding at first, but once it comes together, look out. If you told me that this was a mash-up of all the previous tracks, I might actually believe you.
Ian Mathers: Even more than the other Boredoms tracks here it’s obvious that “(Circle)” is part of a larger whole from the way it cuts off in mid-stride, thirteen minutes in. It’s not quite as sublimely shaped as the material from Super AE and not as recklessly thrilling as their earlier work, but merely-okay Boredoms stuff is a still a pretty fun way to pass a quarter of an hour.
By: Stylus Staff
Published on: 2006-10-25