Behold, the latest batch of Cheese Coney Reviews from John!
We’ve established that instrumental post-rock makes great background music for televised dramas. Explosions in the Sky basically functioned as the house band for the NBC high school football drama Friday Night Lights, infusing weight and drama into scripted spread offence plays with their crystal-clean guitar lines and marching rhythms. It’s appropriate that the slightly hairier, edgier Mogwai would nail a television program with a darker slant like the French zombie epic Les Revenants (apparently translating to “They Came Back”).
Because Les Revenants, the record, is more or less a compilation of the score material the band provided to the show producers, I went in expecting quite a bit of low-profile buffer music with a Mogwai tinge. The first couples songs almost confirmed that prediction, but Les Revenants really picks up as it goes along. Once you give it a chance to breath, the record proves itself worthy of a place among Mogwai’s best work.
Mogwai seem to keep slathering more and more layers of sound onto their “proper” albums. This phenomenon started with Mr. Beast and reached a peak on Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will. It seems like the more money, gear, and studio time Mogwai get their hands on, the more apt they are to add that extra synth part, vocal harmony, or reverbed-out guitar layer until the sonic palette is too muddy to hear through. Natural development is great, but their later material has started to sound overwrought. Maybe because they had to fit this work to a specified goal, the songs on Les Revenants sound more stripped-down and immediate. They allow the bright pearls of celestial goodness Mogwai is still capable of producing to shine through clearly.
I’m a Mogwai fan, but I’m the first to admit that they’ll probably never put out another record on the level of Mogwai Young Team or Happy Songs for Happy People. To the other Mogwai fans out there: if you’re missing the raw, exposed moments that made you feel close to the band in early work, you’ve really got to give Les Revenants a spin. It’s nothing so boring as a return to form, maybe just a return to function.
By the way, do you think French people are as obsessed with zombies as we are? I wonder what the sales figures of smart-ass masterpieces like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies look like, or if they mix horror tropes with their own national history like we’ve done with Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter? Do their fanfic books feature Marie Antoinette pulled into the horde of the undead (“Let them eat brains!”), or Voltaire transforming into a Catholic werewolf every full moon?
We talk about Grey Host a lot at Each Note Secure, but that’s probably just because they’re off-the-wall amazing. It’s nice to hear such roaring, guttural brutality coming out of Cincinnati.
When I was in high school, my friends and I used to drive recklessly down twisting back roads in rural Tennessee while listening to death metal bands like Deicide and Napalm Death. We always joked about the sick sinking feeling we felt whipping around hairpin turns in the dark as the stereo blasted, feeling our tires intermittently losing grip and skidding on the asphalt, imagining that when when/if we crashed and died some 42-year-old religious emergency responder with salt-and-pepper forearm hair that matched his bushy mustache would find the Deicide CD still lodged into the cracked console of our ‘97 Ford Taurus and slowly shake his head, saying, “These boys were on the wrong path . . . and they got what they had coming to them.” We still drove as fast as we could get our four cylinders to take us.
Grey Host gives me that same sort of sick, doomed thrill, although even more so because they’re all slowed-down and bubbling with fuzz. “Bonemother” is the first single from their upcoming debut full-length, and they started out strong with a characteristically epic nine-minute-long burner. I can’t wait to hear the rest.
I’m trying to think of a way to say this without coming off as elitist and shitty, but whenever I get fed up with the constant injection of “MODERN ELECTRONIC DUBSTEP MUSIC” into popular culture by aging technology giants, video game developers, and Kmart, it’s nice to throw on the latest work by Burial and remember what dubstep can really achieve. True, the London artist explores other sub-genres like ambient and garage, but it’s fun to feel all superior and opine about how I can appreciate the “true, original form” of a sound that’s been so completely fucked out by popular culture that it’s in danger of collapsing into itself. It makes me feel mature and refined in a land of oafs, like someone who appreciates a fine cabernet sauvignon having to deal with folks constantly shoving Boone’s Farm in his face. On the other hand . . .
. . . Skrillex makes me feel old and out of touch. I actually do keep trying to give Skrillex a chance, thinking all this internet derision directed at him is just an inevitable backlash from an electronic musician piercing the national consciousness. But I think at this point I can finally close the book and conclude that he does, in fact, suck. Not only does his music sound unnecessarily compressed, pushy, and grating but its boring to boot. His sounds, samples, and progressions are so cookie-cutter that it’s maddening. By the way, have you noticed how fucking LOUD he masters his tracks? That is the digital recording studio method of apologizing for the shittiness of your songs, insisting your music isn’t shallow, it’s just INTENSE and MINDMELTING, BRAH.
When I listen to Skrillex, I perpetually feel like a red-in-the-face middle-aged dad gripping the steering wheel of a Honda Odyssey, only seconds away from whipping my head backwards towards the van-load of kids behind me and yelling at them to “Turn down that goddamn racket!” Maybe I’m finally too old to just not “get” something. It doesn’t feel good.
When I listened to this album the first time, I actually wrote a lot of notes about the music and sound techniques I heard. There were phrases like “cool, spacey R&B” and “super-silky voice.” Also, I wrote down the phrase “occasionally crunchy synths,” but I don’t really remember what I meant by that.
Listen, if you like My Morning Jacket and you like getting stoned, you’ve probably already bought this on iTunes, listened to it several times, bought it again on vinyl, and then pre-ordered your Forecastle tickets for this summer. Even if you only sorta like My Morning Jacket and you stick to bourbon on the rocks (like me), it’s still definitely worth a listen. Not every one of these songs knocks it out of the park from a “catchy hook” perspective, but I get the feeling they’re not really trying to. More than anything, it’s impressive how much effort James put into making every note on this record sound just right. It’s one of the lushest works I’ve heard so far this year.