18 January 2008

2007 in retrospective: Part II

So with some time off to think, I'm still comfortable with my music choices for 2007. No more revision of lists. Onto #3, Ire Works.

Here's the deal (and by deal, I mean relevant background information): I've never really been into The Dillinger Escape Plan. They're frighteningly good musicians (even when members leave and other ones join in - they're kind of like the New England Patriots of music, an analogy to which I'll return later, in that they plug holes. One guy gets injured, they find someone else, put him in, and what do you know? He's just about as good as the guy he replaced!), clearly extraordinarily smart, and are blessed with one of the best names any band could ever hope for (seriously, Copeland? Lovedrug? The Receiving End of Sirens? Please), but for me the problem always was that they never really felt like a band as much as they felt like a group of guys playing music and singing/screaming/yelping at the same time.

Admittedly, I've only listened to Calculating Infinity the one time, and I know I didn't get it. One of my roommates introduced me to Miss Machine and Converge's You Fail Me at about the same time, and I absolutely took to the boys from Massachusetts more than the Jersey fellows. That was the genesis of my Converge = band, while DEP doesn't theory.

However, I hadn't reckoned with the awesome power of one man: Mike fucking Patton. Faith No More's Mike Patton. Mr. Bungle's Mike Patton. Tomahawk's Mike Patton. Fantomas' Mike Patton.

Dillinger Escape Plan's Mike Patton?

Irony Is A Dead Scene. Funny name for an EP featuring a performer who, I'd say, trades on irony as heavily as anybody in the business. The Dillinger Escape Plan featuring Mike Patton. Irony Is A Dead Scene. Featuring a cover of Aphex Twin's "Come To Daddy." The perfect opportunity for me to give Dillinger the one last shot that, it turns out, they so dearly deserved.

It's worth pointing out that one of the things that I simultaneously love and find frightening about "hardcore" or "metalcore" or "mathcore" (digression alert: I really do hate genre names. When Matt and I can discuss the various qualities of early Helmet music and finally wind up defining their genre as "metal grungecore," I think the ability to label things has far surpassed the usefulness of said label. end digression) is how easily even the best bands can lapse into ridiculous self-parody. Grunting and screeching over fast, caustic music can only get you so far, and the more hardcore you get, the further away you get from what you're trying to accomplish. Even Mudvayne figured that out; unfortunately, once they did, they started to suck.

A sense of humor can be good; part of the reason Godsmack and Creed and all of those "serious" bands suck so much is that they don't have a sense of humor about, well, anything. You can't say Mike Patton doesn't have a sense of humor (and if he is, in fact, dead fucking serious about everything he's ever done... then he's just insane. Anyone who can take the "Rosemary's Baby" track on Fantomas' Director's Cut album seriously is also insane). That sense of humor meshes well with Dillinger's no-holds-barred approach to their music; sometimes the best thing a song can do is dip a toe into the goofy end, and sometimes it's best served by jumping in headfirst.

That, in a roundabout leads me into why I love (and I mean love - in kind of an unhealthy way, really) Ire Works. I think they're looser now; there's a nice and caustic groove to most of the music, something I think Tomahawk would be proud of. There's a freedom to it, a Pats-esque (told you!) fuck-you quality to the music; that is to say that they're making the music they want to make (the freedom of most of these "-core" genres is that as long as you're not perceived as mellowing/selling out, your audience seems to grant you a decent amount of freedom). "Black Bubblegum" is a brilliantly ridiculous song that only a band that loves Mike Patton far too much could write, and its brilliance is only accentuated by the fact that "Fix Your Face" and "Lurch" are among the best true hard, abrasive songs put to disc all year. "Sick On Sunday" transitions the album fantastically well between the openers and the under two-minute burst tracks that comprise the next four cuts.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention "Milk Lizard" and its horn section. Truly, something that has to be heard to be believed.

Not to short shrift the other tracks at the expense of "Mouth of Ghosts," but this is truly where the album sold me on Dillinger, and maybe even on the future of this sort of music. All the pieces (including the piano!) combine to make one brilliantly unsettling whole, accentuated by the fact that it takes Ire Works' full running time to build up to it. It uses every single second of its 6:50 running time; like I suspected when I heard "Unretrofied" on Miss Machine, harcore with an attention span might not actually be dead.

I know I haven't actually said all that much about Ire Works here, or why I love it so dearly, but maybe I can't. The best it seems I can do is explain everything that led up to my pulling it off a torrent (and subsequently - 24 hours and three listens later, in fact) grabbing it off the shelf at Target (Target!). It's satisfying, it's schizophrenic; it's deathly serious, it's funny as hell. It's good; it's music. It's Dillinger, and maybe a harbinger of what Dillinger's going to become.

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