Music Reviews


(Sub Pop) Rating - 9/10

Arto Lindsay may be the ballsiest guitarist to misuse the “instrumental.”

Remember for a moment in time during No Wave’s brief stint that rock music was in the process of unlearning so as to replenish its somewhat defunct air of creative and dangerous rebellion.  It’s hard not to see Lindsay as one of those near points of perfect imperfection: his less than adept hand at six-string articulation mostly irrelevant next to his concept of sound for an alienated/alienating subculture.  D.N.A.’s Lionel speaks of this alienation, (FYI: Check out Brian Eno’s No Wave compilation, No New York, or the more recent DNA On DNA), its existence as an instruments-only rash of assaulting sonic strain a relative indictment of the instrumental as high art masturbation, self-indulgence meant solely for the enjoyment of its craftsmen and exhibited for people that “like to watch.”

Whereas I don’t believe this to be completely true, I do feel some odd tinge of joy in hearing Linsday scrub away at his guitar strings with Brillo efficiency, challenging the REAL musicians who couldn’t imitate this sort of unfiltered abrasive tonality if they tried.  Most may not want to, but a lot the “garage” sound that found its way back in the spotlight earlier this decade was shooting for this inexpert level of unpolished abstraction.  They couldn’t imitate The Stooges, either, so there’s something innate that never seems to surface when the charlatans learn all the chords and spit them back at their fans.  Punk rock eventually expanded into something more profound, or degenerated into the twenty-second rants of teenage malcontents.  Some bands kept the No Wave noise intact, and were labeled “Pigfuck” which seemed to die off with The Jesus Lizard.  Here is where we find AFCGT.

AFCGT, a very direct and unimaginative way of noting that they’re the combined energies of A Frames and Climax Golden Twins, treats the instrumental to Abortion Locust Technician-style dramatics and Sonic Youth/Fugazi repetition and conveyance that recalls old school DIY culture and, in some ways, modernizes their ideas.  AFCGT (LP), released also with a bonus 7,” revitalizes a sound that has up to this point been said to be alive and well, but was mostly missing from our closing decade.  (Not completely missing, but MOSTLY missing.)  And though they’ve readily embraced the portability benefits of MP3 downloads, AFCGT (LP) will not be available on CD.  And the 7?”  Sorry digi-heads:  purists with turntables will, for once, inherit the spoils.

When my ears first did meet AFCGT’s latest efforts it was through the single Two Legged Dog, a ten-minute sonic exploration that evoked Ciccone Youth’s droning Macbeth (from Sonic Youth side-project, The Whitey Album) and Fugazi’s serrated and percussive Brendan #1 (from Repeater).  It’s admittedly drawn-out, but the consistency of rhythm and eventual build up of sound is captivating.  The riff is perfect, the solos weave and undulate and the vocals are wildly indecipherable, incorporated into the song's already hazy backdrop.  I think I listened to Two Legged Dog five or six times over the space of an hour before I felt I’d absorbed it, fascinated by what I wasn’t expecting.  

So, I was also surprised to immediately draw Butthole Surfers comparisons when Black Mark leaked out of AFCGT’s screaming guitars, or when the softly composed/spoken Nacht showed traces of Lindsay’s guitar tweaks, seeming to embrace both the scorn and scope of noise rock’s experimental prowess.  Nacht also reveals underlying orchestration, violin whine and wobble dominating its other abundant headphone treasures.  And, New Punk 27?  Usually the words “new” and “punk” in the same sentence leads to skepticism, but the broken, amplified collage of basement pure scratch and screech halted doubt.  I could envision the broken amps and cheap instruments, not to mention the scummy sofa beds, marred furniture, stained paneling and the smoldering cigarette butts lining the linoleum floor like some army defeated in a battle against the atomic bomb.  Blissfully jagged. 

Reasonably Nautical is the only time the band’s instrumentation seems to drown underneath layers of sound collage and environmental intensity.  New Punk thrashes for 50 seconds before Slide 9 quietly plays to the LP’s end, guitar strings sproing like wriggling, cartoonish springs while cages rattle.  Its rhythm is almost completely obscured, like its being recorded through wooly blankets. 

The 7” features the orchestrated chaos of Niche and near-funky Korin, stand alone pieces that work better as accompaniments than inclusions.

What I find most attractive about this album, other than AFCGT’s reveling in the good ol’ days of indie noise terror and creative post-punk expression, is that there’s a strong likelihood that this album will be dismissed as noise: loud, irritating noise.  I like this idea, mostly because I want to believe that rock music can still generate negative responses, or put people off.  I like that there’s a potential for rock music to unlearn, again, and also rediscover the absurd, the abstract and the abominable.  AFCGT (LP) conjures up a lot of excitement and even declares its own war on the digital era.