Tuesday, 12 July 2011

So Scratched Into Our Souls #6: Killer Dreamer - Black Metal Band

"They have names like Igor, Meldorf, and Tor/Black metal is not like, is not exactly like Living Color/I kinda hope they move here, so I don't have to pay import prices/But I'm kinda fear them being near me, because, they're not nice!/I befriended them/Bye bye mom, it's now me and my black metal friends/I befriended them/Bye bye Franklin, it's now me and my black metal friends" - Atom and his Package, Me and My Black Metal Friends

A lot of my favourite music sounds a lot like this song. It's that sort of lo-fi scratchy pop-punk that draws a lot from FYP, Hickey (Hickey are the best band ever) and The Mummies. The first FYP releases are really rough stuff, but they undergo a process of refinement throughout their career until they're playing fairly straight pop-punk, but it doesn't feel like a band choosing to change their sound, but one learning to play their instruments as they continue, that they always wanted the slicker stuff but just couldn't manage it at first. Hickey (Hickey are the best band ever) were a sloppily experimental band who often sound as if they wanted to write a simple pop-punk song but got bored and wandered off. The Mummies sound like a Sounds of the Sixties station with the dial carelessly thrown halfway off into the mid-band static. All three bands share the fact that they sound like they've reached their own distinctive mix of structure and fuzziness through a seemingly accidental careless process. They always wanted to play something the kids could bop to, but they were the wrong sort of kids, so they could only play something the wrong sort of kids would bop to, the freaks and weirdos and corner lurkers learning life lessons from this cartel of fuck-ups, learning brevity doesn't mean simplicity and that simplicity doesn't mean smoothness, learning beauty comes in burning packages, learning that distortion is a cure-all and that the top forty and its mass-market pretty faces cannot croon a broken, confused heart in the way that these pissy fucks can when they pack all the anxiety into the songs so that they bubble over, they black-lung cackle and sting.

Garage bands, who don't wanna hear about what the rich are doing, don't wanna go to where the rich are going, soothsaying guttersnipes. There is that criticism of punk that it's people who can't play their instruments, but it leads to this lovely oddness and degraded glorious sound, the first wave of that is what David's Town was aping. On Westway to the World Paul Simonon talks about how the reggae feel of Guns of Brixton came from the fact that he'd grown up listening to reggae so when he tried to write a song, whatever he did naturally leant that way. In the cases I'm talking about here though, it's music leaning into the louder angrier stuff that gives its edge rather than punk being unable to escape another sound but leaving some of its threat and menace in the song that we see in Simonon's pissed-off reggae masterpiece. I'm talking happy accidents for unhappy people.

So all those bands playing rough approximations of a more refined sound (and those three were by no means some classic example of this, just three bands that I like a lot that I associate in my head with this phenomena), led to a lot of the bands I love today which all dance around that style, Stymie, Dude Jams, Fancy Pants and the Cellphones, The Bananas, The Credentials, Killer Dreamer, Shang-a-Lang, Sass Dragons, The Exploding Hearts, Future Virgins, The Measure (SA). It's the classical notion of a three minute pop song torn apart by feral children and put back together roughly by enthusiastic incompetents. A slick thing pushed loud enough for the cracks to appear and the churn and shit inside to shine through. All of these bands have different sounds and genealogies but they can all be described in this fashion, pop songs for malcontents and howlheads, a crumbling silly little ditty that stomps and thrashes in a sweet dumb fury, unstable material, brief half-lives that decay and rot and break things because they'll never be prom queen.

Killer Dreamer are the perfect example of this sort of thing and I chose Black Metal Band because it's my favourite song of theirs. A short punk stomp that fizzes and spits and dies nasty. It reminds me of my friend Graham's admission that he only formed a pop-punk band because he was not a good enough guitarist to be in a thrash metal band, and he ended up playing amazing low-fi scratchy pop-punk with Fancy Pants and the Cellphones that contains all the brevity and vim of The Undertones but is nowhere near fit for mass public consumption. Black Metal Band is a somewhat noisy song about being very noisy. It's a pop-punk song about a black metal band that sounds as if it's been infected with the pull of the violent evil sound it's describing and is transforming into it. The smooth skin of something easy and clear picked at relentlessly until it begins to itch and break apart. Musical dermatillomania. Still catchy and hummable but nothing near pop. Noisebursts you can shimmy to.

Plus, I just love the bit where the snotty garage yelp slips into a satanic growl to intone the song title. Form and content, mothers and fuckers!

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