Tom Smith and some superb friends churn out a new *studio* release. Still Tom’s got those lectro-huskified vocals that get stretched like silly putty through your headphones. I try hard to follow the lyrics without the sheet, and I’m lost in an elastic maze. And it should be pointed out that even armed with the lyrics, the maze then takes on a whole other dimension. Meanwhile the music is built like a tactile dome: pushing up against your eardrums, guitars sound like damaged aircraft trying to take flight before the runway tarmac melts into the earth. Are these the dreams of sirens? Was this recorded whilst under siege? Barricaded in a studio, and not enough food for all the musicans? The drummer Andrew W.K. had to eat one of his own sticks eventually, often he’s left clubbing out a death march to hold the center while radioactive bursts of sound ignite space. But Tom’s loony croon, along with lyrics that invite investigation rather than hammer down an idea, remain the huge attraction. This feels like a protest album, without being boringly plain-spoken. A trophy (as opposed to atrophy) release, topped only by the inner artwork by Oscar Perez.--
(Fans of Nick Cave, Young Gods, and opiates take note.)
Rating: 4 out of 4.
Not a band as much a collective, not a collective as much whoever decides to get with founder Tom Smith at any given moment, the oddly-monikered To Live and Shave in L.A. (TLASILA to their friends) has existed in one form or another since 1990. Smith, usually with a core featuring Ben Wolcott and Rat Bastard, has released a seemingly endless stream of tiny-label discs that explore avant-garde soundscapes and man's inhumanity to man, or something. Much like Negativland, each of the group's releases seems to have a life of its own. Noon and Eternity welcomes a star-studded menagerie to the fold - Don Fleming of B.A.L.L. joins Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore, and beer-commercial rocker Andrew W.K. plays drums! - and the resulting cacophony seems as much performance artistry as it is music. Odd samples and electronic flashes of sonic light blaze across downtuned post-Sabbath guitar skronk, while a maniacal baritone voice rants and raves in barely decipherable tones for the better part of the entire disc - four songs in 66 minutes, and good luck figuring out when each one ends and the next one begins.* This is not music to drive to, nor will it appear on a snazzy mixtape.** But if you put your headphones on and close your eyes, you may just see God.
* There are two seconds of silence between each composition.
** People have driven to the album.
After seeing the track lengths of this album I'm not going to lie, I shut off instantly and then I heard the album itself. Thurston Moore and Andrew WK need to stick to their day jobs. If I wanted long songs I'd have put on Starkweather or Neurosis, if I wanted interesting music I'd have put on Throbbing Gristle or The Buzzcocks. Despite having at least one musical innovator I know of off the top of my head, this is nothing new. Each track is a dense offering of atonal whaling and crooning breaking through a reinforced wall of aural psych out seemingly cobbled together for the sake of making something "challenging". This is the equivalent of reading a novel written by an academic who should have stayed that way. Maybe it's my age or overall uptightness that won't seem to dispense into the jam band miasma my friends find themselves in. I still enjoy the old art + rock = art rock equation (note the rock element in the formula), I'm not ready to hear the soundtrack to an art student's exhibit of his/her master's thesis. *
* There are no female MFA candidates in TLASILA.