There’s a Beck song, on Mellow Gold (I think) that is memorable for one shining sample, a screech of feedback as distinct as a friend’s smile to me, only because of the hundreds of times I heard it on the original record by the Melvins. It’s always struck me as quite odd that a) I would actually recognize the squeal of Melvins feed back in a Beck song and b) that Beck would bother to sample it. After all, any nimrod with a guitar turned up too loud can make the thing feedback. But then, Beck and Buzzo of the Melvins know what all connoisseurs of guitar feedback know: that it is a fickle playmate, given more often to uncontrollable outbursts of annoying cacophony than it is to the transcendent scream that only feedback (and the singer from Boston) can provide.
Of course, to most people, feedback, even when properly employed by experts, still sounds like hell. But as my friend Ron once said, “They just can’t see past the noise, man.”
But Missoula, which has a rich heritage of art noise and punk rawk, has always been a safe haven for feedbackers and their devotees (read: other guitarists) in this urbanly challenged sector of the Northwest. There is this understanding within the greater national scene of underground music; in Missoula they see past the noise, man.
See what exactly? Well, on Friday, Black Dice and The Rapture from New York City. Both bands certainly don’t worry about the finer aspects of feedback manipulation so much as concern themselves with what it represents. They make noise, a hellish din of boxcar drums, thick bass and screaming, both human and guitar, that all adds up to an unsettling sonic dare to withstand the forces involved. It’s like the audience is a punk rawk Chuck Yeager, and the band is the bird you’ve gotta put through it’s paces and land.
In shows like this, the feedback isn’t so much a part of the music as a period at the end of each song; when the drums stop, the singer slumps and the madman guitarist just stands there and lets that thing continue to shriek while the band readies for the next number, that’s when you are in between songs, that’s when your ears are resting. That’s when you can’t wait for the next song to start, because the breaks hurt more than the songs. It’s actually a lot of fun.
Of course, this is an acquired taste, but in this day and age who really needs adequate hearing? Just yell, I say.
Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that local rock hall-of-famer Yale Kaul will be doing double duty on Friday, providing the propulsive element for both Lardello and Humpy on the skins. Even more remarkably, the bands couldn’t sound more different. Many of you are familiar with Humpy’s brand of smart-ass punk, which features a more badass Yale on the skins, but check out Lardello’s swinging space-surf and remind the ever-humble Mr. Kaul that he’s the man.
Black Dice, The Rapture, Lardello and Humpy, play the Union Hall Friday, May 12 at 8 p.m. Cover $5.