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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Fuck Buttons: "Street Horrrsing"

Let's not try to make excuses here. Street Horrrsing is a terrible album. If you've followed the overhyped history of this British noise band from their humble roots in 2004 to the present day, then you are well-aware of the fact that this band has grown significantly since that time. Where their earlier "songs" found the band mixing an endless array of sounds, textures, and distortions to form completely incoherent catastrophes, Street Horrrsing shows a couple of guys who have added a few pleasing elements (ie. melody) to their music. The end result is still very much a disaster, but I didn't find myself hating it altogether.

"Noise rock," "experimental," and my personal favorite, "noisecore," are all terms that have been used to haphazardly describe Fuck Buttons' compositions. Perhaps void of "rock" and "core," the term "noise" would be much more appropriate. For the majority of Street Horrrsing's runtime, the group is more than content with assaulting your ears with a inappropriate level of distortion, background screams, and random electronic instrumentation. There are times when the band lets up a bit, like on "Ribs Out," where we're treated to several minutes of tribal drums and delayed monkey howl-esque vocals (I believe they are vocals). Lyrics (aside from indecipherable screams) are nowhere to be found on the album, which can't be a bad thing as I usually find it better when an artist learns to make music before they start singing along to them.



And while the sonic majesty and depth of Fuck Buttons' compositions are hardly debatable, the sheer difficulty of them are not. They're easy. When actual notes are played, they're usually part of a four-chord progression that continues throughout the length of the song. That's not such a deterrent for a 3-minute pop song, but seeing as how all but one of the songs on Street Horrrsing are over 7 1/2 minutes long, even the most impressive moments of the album start to wear thin eventually. Personally, I found "Sweet Love For Planet Earth" to be captivating until it hit the 6 minute line and just repeated the same thing for the next 3 minutes. Likewise, "Okay, Let's Talk About Magic" (the longest song on the album) is downright tedious.

That's not to say that Fuck Buttons is completely without talent or vision, however. I've found them to be a duo capable of both. The problem simply lies in the music that is presented on Street Horrrsing. To put it bluntly, it sounds completely amateur at times. Only two tracks have anything that sounds completely different from the other four, and even then the music that is playing is hardly profound or even noteworthy. The whole "let's play loud distorted music and then scream underneath it" theme is repeated over and over again and it's silly to suggest that such a gimmick is worth filling up an album with, or that it's worth hearing more than once.

I've heard it said by several friends and bloggers that Fuck Buttons is just messing with us, making an album that is purposefully bad just to see who will fall for their ruse. I don't buy that at all. I think Fuck Buttons made Street Horrrsing as a serious output for their music. Unfortunately, the band misses the mark on so many levels that it's hard to take someone who rants and raves about the album seriously. It's too simple to be experimental, too melodic to be noise rock, and not melodic enough to be considered anything else but amateur. If the band was reaching for something wholly unique, something indefinable, they have actually achieved that goal. Unfortunately, if they were going for something good, they have a way to go. Street Horrrsing lies somewhere between a bad Lumines Soundtrack and skipping record. Both might be welcome changes after enduring this unfortunate album.

Key Tracks:
1. "Sweet Love for Planet Earth"
2. "Ribs Out"

2 out of 10 Stars

6 comments:

Stephen Dedalus said...

"I've heard it said by several friends and bloggers that Fuck Buttons is just messing with us, making an album that is purposefully bad just to see who will fall for their ruse."

After The Shaggs and Half Japanese, I've learned never to think this about any music that I don't understand.

Anonymous said...

How can something be too simple to be experimental? Did you consider the actual meaning of that word because you shat it into my eyes?

This review basically comes down to "i don't understand this. it scares me, so i hate it" - which doesn't justify a 2 star review.

Cale said...

It doesn't scare me, but I'd be lying if I said that I do understand it. I don't. Though I'm not entirely convinced that there is anything here to understand.

Any review essentiall boils down to the question, is there anything of value here? My answer is, there's very little - hence the 2 rating.

The simplicity statement is in reference to their use of 4-chord loops, specifically. And while I suppose it's technically possible to "experiment" within the confines of said 4-chord loop, I don't think any respectable "experimental" artist (i.e. Michel Chion, or more recently, Animal Collective) would even lower themselves to that.

Anonymous said...

It's not about 4-chord loops, the song structure, the melodies, the simple rhythms. That stuff is a just a vessel for the noise.

Noise without context isn't music (arguably) and difficult to tolerate. But noise does have an aesthetic element. I think everything that you criticize the album for - the simple melodies, the repetition - just serves to highlight what is wonderful about noise. It's unsettling and irritating, but powerful and intriguing. Noise might even be analogous to the ultimate substance upon which we draw musical forms from.

Try listening to it with headphones, cranked, with the intent not of having a musical experience but of exfoliating your eardrums. I know this defense of the album sounds pretentious, but that is inherent in an critique of music beyond 'I (dis)like it.'

Cale said...

"Exfoliating your eardrums" -Nice

I reviewed this 1 1/2 years ago, so I can't say for sure, but I'd be willing to bet that I recognized this as a "headphones" album and threw on my big studio monitors to listen to it.

I will say, it's probably a much better album with headphones on, eyes shut, relaxing than it is driving in your car.

But still, there's not a whole lot of value in it FOR ME. After listening to it several times, I think me acknowledging that holds much more weight than someone who listened to it for 20 seconds and then moved on. It's just not something I can get into.

With that said, it is at the very least an intriguing album. So I do plan on checking out their new one.

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