New Bomb Turks – [LP]

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Lou Reed has gone on the record several times as saying that one of the keystone songwriting principles which informed his writing for the Velvet Underground was Raymond Chndler's writing. With a perfectly understated and almost deadpan tone, Reed will drop lines like “That blonde was as pleasant as a split lip” on documentary film camera lenses to illustrate how potentially exciting and inspiring Chandler's images can be – and the further beauty of them is that they all use very simple language. There is no way to avoid the potency of Chandler's writing – his images are unique in their assemblage and as perfectly blunt as they are simultaneously razor-keen; their meaning is poignant and regularly feels like the definitive summation of a given subject. Some readers have walked away from Chandler's books feeling like they just had the secret skeleton key which unlocks all the possible doors to reality handed to them when they hear that, and some will walk away just shaking their heads and feeling like they just got intellectually mugged. The exact same phenomenon could be said of !! Destroy-Oh-Boy !! – New Bomb Turks debut album; by the time it was released in 1993, !! Destroy-Oh-Boy !! didn't have to blaze a trail to make it safe for sludgy, scruffy post-punk (grunge and alt-rock had already done that), so New Bomb Turks took it upon themselves to refine (definitions of the term might need to be re-thought), re-focus and tighten the field on which alt-rock operated. In effect, New Bomb Turks took it upon themselves to embody what all those who didn't listen to alt-rock thought the music was all about; the Turks were caustic and angry, but also had an almost blood-thirsty wit and an aesthetics-go-piss attitude which reveled in slime, filth and fury in a way that no other band ever had before.

The New Bomb Turks redefined a lot of ideas regarding what rock could and couldn't be by virtue of their approach to the music alone. On a comparative scale, while The Stooges were refined and The Melvins were progressive, Mudhoney was tame, and Pussy Galore was impossibly subdued; New Bomb Turks were raw, indiscriminately aggressive and ready to go at the drop or a hat.

With all those cross-wired, half-cocked images in mind, it goes without saying that New Bomb Turks didn't have an easy road to hoe through the already glossy and platinum-glazed, punk-and-grunge-identified marketplace of the American music scene in 1993 but, clearly, they were not interested in backing down or lightening up in spite of a multitude of sources saying they should but, now in 2013, New Bomb Turks and other bands like them have found that they've inherited a bit of a tarnished dynasty. That dynasty is populated by music fans who have been cast off from and/or disenfranchised by the pitch-corrected blandness of the modern rock mainstream and are looking for something a little more human, a little less certain and brave enough to swim against the current. Granted, the number of receptive ears might not be huge, but they're a devoted crew; when presented with something which speaks both to and for them, they hang onto it for dear life.

Because the disenfranchised, outsider community will cling to it, it only makes sense that New Bomb Turks would present them with something worth clinging to: a snazzy twelve-inch vinyl disc free of the cup rings that so many of the surviving originally-pressed copies of !! Destroy-Oh-Boy !! are decorated with which features a slightly augmented track list as well as an additional 10'' bonus disc which features demos that NBT recorded in 1992. All that – combined expanded liner notes which feature a tonne of extra pictures and other such eye candy – ensures that those devoted fans remaining in the band's camp are getting their money's worth, but the timing is right too; new ears who have never heard any of this stuff before may find to their surprise that it's exactly what they've been missing – the filth, the fury, the keen mental acuity and the mire might just be exactly what they were looking for.

Listening to this reissue, it feels like nothing has really changed in the last twenty years – in spite of how many times tastes have shifted. Just as it was on the day of its release in 1993, !! Destroy-Oh-Boy !! brims with equal shares of anger and laughter through clenched teeth, and ensnares the attention pf listeners with a speed that almost feels forceful. Through songs like “Born Toulouse-Latrec,” “Up For A Downslide,” “Tattooed Apathetic Boys” and “Dragstrip Riot,” guitarist Jim Weber and bassist Matt Reber churn up a quagmire of sound which is just about as dirty as it is unrelenting. It almost feels obscene, in listening to it, but marvelous too because no matter how slimy the tracks get, the band never bogs down under the weight of their own filth or fury, or gets totally obscured by the mire which gets dumped on top of all the songs. In each case, guitarist Jim Weber and bassist Matt Reber cajole drummer Bill Randt into a mud fight as they splash thick filth all over the proceedings, but the real terror can be found in singer Eric Davidson's often-imitated-but-never-matched vocal styling. Words like “spitting,” “gibberish,” and “ecstatically blathering” could all imply a general idea of Davidson's performance here, but none of them define it exactly; each of these songs feature a voice which seems ready to spit, scream or take a hard jab in the mouth (if it hasn't already), but it also has an indefatigable spirit which is perfectly engaging; any given listener might be turned on by what they hear on this album or they might be put off, but they won't be able to turn it off, even when they have to flip the record because a side ended – they'll still keep listening until they've made their way all the way through. That is the beauty of it; like Chandler's writing, the music presents images and ideas which are fantastic and hypnotizing.

As they make their way along through this run-time though, those who know this record well already will notice that not everything is just the same in the playing of this reissue of !! Destroy-Oh-Boy !!. First, the production seems a little more wooden than it did before. That isn't necessarily a bad thing, because the sounds supports the general tone and tenor of the music better, but there are more differences which set this experience apart from its predecessor as well. On the second side of the record, listeners will notice that the track list begins to change, and eventually adds up to a pretty significant difference in the experience of the album. Here, the inclusion of “Hapless Attempt” and “Let's Dress Up The Naked Truth” introduces a more pronounced and seductive sense of wordplay.

But will everyone – both old fans and new – feel the same about what they get from this reissue of !! Destroy-Oh-Boy !!? That's the question and, really, there's no easy answer; some fans will say it would have been nice if “I'm Weak” hadn't been dropped of this run-time, and some new fans will swear they can't imagine how the record would have played without “Hapless Attempt” or “Let's Dress Up The Naked Truth,” so it cuts both ways. All of such quibbling really is just that though; taken as it is for what it is, this twentieth anniversary reissue of !! Destroy-Oh-Boy !! is satisfying, and works as a perfect gateway for the band to start reissuing the rest of their material as well.



Deluxe Twentieth Anniversary vinyl reissue of !! Destroy-Oh-Boy !! will be released on July 23, 2013 by Crypt Records. Order it here directly from the label.

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