A lot of weird things happened when it started getting cool for rock and metal bands to cop to punk influences. It was somewhere around the time that Slayer put out an album of Minor Threat and TSOL covers, but certainly before (at least in on my own mental time line) Guns ’n’ Roses showed up late with The Spaghetti Incident. Maybe the G ’n’ R album actually came out first, I can’t remember, but nonetheless: Which of those two bands makes the more credible case for punk rock fandom?
Conversely, there was a lot of metal seepage into the punk rock scene at the time. It had happened before, of course—lest we forget, a glut of punk-metal crossover bids (Does anybody out there remember what happened to the Dirty Rotten Imbeciles?) in the mid- to late-’80s made it difficult, for a time, to tell which side was up in the thrash zone. And don’t even get me started about “thrash-funk,” a.k.a. the Genre That Dare Not Speak Its Name, No How No Way.
But things seemed to get altogether worse in the early ‘90s, when you couldn’t swing a bullet belt without hitting some sludgy band huddling under the all-comers welcome banner of punk rock. I used to dread even watching these bands set up, bands like Christdriver, because it always seemed like they had five-foot-nothing bass players with cabinets taller than they were. And bald heads and braided beards, who would spend the whole show with their jaws jutted out, scowling out from under pierced eyebrows and just basically trying to look as much as possible like sinister metal-dwarfs.
And then there were the drummers, who always took about an hour setting up their dorkwad cage setups, complete with chintzy splash cymbals and roto-toms and at least one piece of hardware that must have been there for looks ‘cause it never got touched by a stick. And, of course, there was the double-bass, once an 85 percent sure sign of either overweening technical pretensions, unintentionally hilarious gear fetishism and/or songs that always had to have mosh breakdowns with two-feet-flyin’ double-bass showcases. Sometimes drummers would even tape quarters or half-dollars to their bass drum heads to get the slight clacking sound that used to be the industry standard for a death metal recording.
It all seems so long ago now. Somewhat after all this, the double-bass retained favor among SoCal punk bands who wanted to sound as much like Pennywise or NOFX as possible, but nowadays I wouldn’t know where to turn to find more than the usual parts-per-million of that busy, busy double-bass sound. It’s interesting, though, that as drum machines get more sophisticated, groups that use them often push their bass drum beats to speeds that would have gravely tested human endurance even for drummers with an extra bass drum. The guitar-drum machine duo Agoraphobic Nosebleed are a good example of how devastating the technology can be when it falls into the right hands. (Jeez, listen to me: Dirty Rotten Imbeciles, Christdriver, Agoraphobic Nosebleed...you probably think I’m making this stuff up!) It’s tough to hear what’s going on drumwise on the Lack’s self-titled debut on the Troubleman Unlimited label. Kind of tough anything-wise, actually—which shouldn’t come as a surprise, since these Columbus, Ohio noise ghouls proudly call their self-titled album “41 minutes and 15 seconds of sonic destruction.” It’s an unholy racket, for sure, and there appears to be at least two of everything, bass drum included, with volume knobs cranked to Irreversible Brain Damage for most of those 41 minutes and 15 seconds.
Sounds like they’ve got a real drummer and a drum machine locked in a Crossroads-style duel, and they keep the drum machine submerged in heavy syrup to give it just the right tar-pit distortion.
It’s pretty nuts. If there’s a drug that would be fun to take while listening to The Lack, it doesn’t exist in nature and no one has synthesized it yet. Some of the tracks have names, some just have numbers, and a few just have a couple of dashes (–) where a name or number should be. The general vibe is one of extreme alienation from humanity, the natural world and technology—in other words, from pretty much everything. A dumpster of mutilated industrial sounds, but with some strange and strangely pretty Syd Barrett moments—like a goth band on speed playing a cover of “Astronomy Domine.” If any of this makes sense or, God forbid, actually appeals to you, I think you know where the action is this Tuesday.