Saturday, 9 May 2009

Iwrestledabearonce - Self-titled EP

Right, I have returned, after my brief foray into rather elitist video game journalism. Sorry to the, like, four of you who read this blog, but I've been feeling a little bored of writing reviews as of late. I like writing either very positive reviews or bone crushingly negative reviews, and I've just flung praise wildly at Devil Sold His Soul, so I need a stinker to go a little nuts on. Unfortunately, it's been a while since I heard an album which was bad enough to warrant a review; I was gonna do Architects "Hollow Crown", but it's much better than I thought it was at first listening, then I was gonna wait until The Boy Will Drown's debut and rail on that, but I have a horrible suspicion that it'll actually be rather good. Fortunately I've found a suitable punching bag.

One of the things that is honestly, genuinely wrong with this generation of metal kids is that practically no-one actually knows what grindcore is. Most of them have never heard of Napalm Death, Nasum, Pig Destroyer, Rotten Sound and the rest, and have instead used the term to refer to a very particular brand of metalcore. A kind of crossover of mathcore and deathcore, this new genre, which I like to refer to as "spazzcore" (alternately " 'tardcore), consists of genero-breakdowns, spastic flailing on guitars, pretensions of "atmospheric" parts and a vocalist who alternates between pig-brees and the kind of high scream that resembles the shop security whistles used to ward off teens. See You Next Tuesday, early The Boy Will Drown and War From A Harlot's Mouth all qualify for this, but perhaps the epitome is the "hilarious" Iwrestledabearonce

Formed of what appear to be the participants for "World's Reddest Necks" disqualified because that much inbreeding counts as cheating even in Louisiana, they're the kind of band who think that the best thing a band can be is ironic. As such, I can only assume that most of their fans only listen to them ironically, because someone who can genuinely milk enjoyment from this probably escaped from special school halfway through an impromptu lobotomy. Here's a list of some of the "fun" or "experimental" things they do in their songs:

  • The aforementioned guitar wankery which appears to have never actually heard something with musical structure, but perhaps read about the idea once. Just because you CAN play a million notes a second doesn't mean you SHOULD. Fast playing is there to embelish melody with depth and variety, not to make a tuneless blur of notes.
  • Over forced ambient sections which just come across as trying to better War From A Harlot's Mouth's rather good random jazz interludes. On the other hand, at least uninteresting electronica sections provide a break from the one-note main sections.
  • They rip off Enter fucking Shikari. If a self-proclaimed "grindcore" band are taking inspiration from Enter shitcunting Shikari, well then, everything has truly gone to pot.
  • Randomly inserting the Inspector Gadget theme is neither big nor clever. Using it as a breakdown is actually a cardinal sin, just above being the guy who writes the puns for newspaper headlines.

Now imagine the aforementioned quirks are pasted inbetween repetitive blast beat-filled parts which couldn't inspire headbanging in a jack-in-the-box and dull, thoughtless breakdowns, and repeated ad infinitum. That is the totality of the EP. How they're going to stretch this shit to a full length is beyond me, but I suspect they'll stick with the winning formula they convulsed out on this EP.

At risk of being as repetitive as that which I'm criticizing, two things I mentioned in previous reviews suddenly seem relevant. In my Waking The Cadaver review I mentioned that I resented a track of them doing weed because they were obviously having more fun than I did listening to the album. Every misplaced transition from one section to another, every "hey, try this" moment, every over-shredded breakdown makes me feel like that. They're obviously enjoying themselves, but it's a shame I'm not. Secondly, in my Sunn O))) review I mentioned that if an experimental band is serious about abandoning musical conventions, they must have a solid idea of what they're replacing it with. Every other section Iwrestledabearonce come up with is some half-formed turd of an impulse, and it feels like they're just throwing ideas at the wall and seeing what sticks. And when it does stick, expect to hear it again, and again, and again.

However, criticizing this album is kind of a hollow victory, because I get the impression this band might as well just be one big joke. So much is played for laughs (without being genuinely funny, like, say, Beneath The Buried and Me's line-dancing sections, or HORSE the band's general brilliance) that my criticism is like insulting someone's mum based on a comment they made that may or may not have been them insulting their mum. 

But then I remember that the "irony" defence is logic armour on par with the "It was just a social experiment" defence. Whether you're genuinely retarded or knowingly, self-awarely retarded, you'll still be required to wear a bib when you're eating. Just because certain parts of this EP are deliberately bad doesn't excuse them for being so.

And they're not grindcore.

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