I Set My Friends On Fire – [Album]

Saturday, 27 August 2011

While there's little doubt that tween-age kids will probably flock to the pop-aggressive sounds that I Set My Friends On Fire have concocted on Astral Rejection, it's also hard to not feel like every single, solitary micro-tone of the album flies in the face of every tenet that punk rock has held dear for decades. Remember how punk of every stripe used to work? It was simple:

  • Write some songs (the length of which was irrelevant).
  • Get them on tape, warts and all, and only use the equipment you can take on tour.
  • Release them and hit the road to show them to people.

As a result of those basic working ideals (rules would be too strong a word), punk was raw and that was illustrated by the quick, needs-first design of both the music and the packaging of it. Many of those things are true of Astral Rejection but, because recording technology has both changed and gotten cheaper to buy over time, a two-piece outfit like I Set My Friends On Fire can (and does) sound like an army; and that is also the case on this record, which casts the possibility of the band being able to faithfully perform the songs live into question.

From the very outset of “In Comes Naturally,” Astral Rejection illustrates both the next generation of punk songwriting and the aforementioned problem with it as the song pits a truly awesome and cathartic vocal line from singer/programmer Matt Mehana against a chirping, burbling and terrifying wall of ugly sound that is thick as a brick and solid as the same, but also sounds wildly over-polished and frustratingly tight; it's scary and imposing, but also totally inaccessible because it doesn't try to hide the fact that it was manufactured in a studio by machines. This trend continues as “Infinite Suck” introduces a slightly stunted funk guitar line into the mix, “Excite Dyke” steps up the metallic quality of the band's sound (and seems to lift the riff from the Mission Impossible theme song, but speeds it up to mask it a little) and “My Paralyzed Brother Taps His Foot To This Beat” apes a couple of Bollywood sound cliches and mixes them with some frenetic beats that sound like dubstep on a mix of amphetamines and phencyclidine. With all those images in mind, does it really need to be said that the best thing about each of these songs is their titles?

Nothing really improves as the record progresses after ”My Paralyzed Brother Taps His Foot To This Beat.” The same principles as those which fueled the first half of the record continue through the second which eventually gets exhausting and repetitive until the whole thing finally ends unfulfillingly with “Cacafuego, Nuestra Senora De La Concepcion!” In the end, for those who actually like punk rock, as opposed to the dozens of bastardized permutations which have come along since the dawn of the new millennium, I Set My Friends On Fire won't leave much of an impression because (like good hardcore records) it is aggressive but (unlike good hardcore records) it's also totally formless and is disposable because of that.



Astral Rejection
is out now. Buy it here on Amazon .

Comments are closed.