16 September 2008

united fucking nations

I have had a plan, for several years now, to start a band. I've had a plan like this, in one form or another, since high school, but this time I'm serious. Eventually, this band will form, and it will kick fucking ass.

The name comes from a unit in a video game that I've tried my hardest to appreciate, but that I just can't ever get into: Civilization (to tangent, and thus explain, I should say that I'm uncomfortable devoting the better part of a day to playing a single level of a game at this, the ripe old age of 24). The name of this unit is the Modern Infantry, and thus, is the name of my band. You can view our MySpace page, if you like, and listen to two songs I arranged on my computer about two years ago.

The songs themselves are not all that representative of what I want the band's music to sound like. An name like Modern Infantry sort of demands a position at the vanguard of music, the most cutting-edge of cutting edge, which is a difficult enough proposition when you yourself are a skilled musician surrounded with skilled musicians, but it becomes an infinitely more difficult goal when you're not a musician of note under even the most generous of definitions. I want it to push boundaries, to be ridiculously far ahead of its time, like the Refused's The Shape of Punk to Come, or Botch's We Are The Romans, or Converge's Jane Doe, music that calls attention to itself and demands total engagement, because anything less will result in a demonization of the music as "noise."

The problem with this self-imposed requirement, the ambitiousness of it, is that it's directly at war with the purpose of the music, the message that I want it to convey, which, while not necessarily one of outright rebellion against evil authority, should at least be one of warning, one that urges people to keep their eyes open and their attention paid, because we can see right now what happens when the public falls asleep and disengages, and we have to do everything we can to prevent that from happening again. I want Modern Infantry to inject itself into the public discourse, to get some people talking and thinking, and perhaps get those people to lead others towards the realm of civic responsibility and active thought and debate, and that's difficult to do when your music limits its audience severely. "Won't Get Fooled Again" and "Fortunate Son" are politically charged songs that've lived on, at least in part, because of their... musical accessibility, shall we say. So, if I were to alter the form of Modern Infantry's music, but not the content, it's possible that the message could make its way out to more people, making a greater impact.

The beauty of what I'm going to refer to as "hardcore" is that the music can really reflect the primal, unrestrained fury that the people making it feel. There's a sort of purity to this kind of music, and it's the best way that I can think to articulate how I feel about the gross abuse of power that we've been living with for the last eight years, and that I fear we're going to face in the future if we don't all wake the fuck up and try to do something to change the situation. Let's not forget what happened to the good Prince of Denmark when he delayed action; we don't want to follow in his footsteps.

The point that I'm coming to now is this: when you have a good idea like this, you need to devote time to getting it off the ground, because, eventually, someone more successful/talented than you will have a similar idea, and make it happen. The case in point? United Nations, the brainchild of Daryl Palumbo (Glassjaw's vocalist, a band I never felt strongly about, one way or another) and Geoff Rickly (Thursday's vocalist, a band that I've never cared for in the slightest). Insofar as there can be an underground grindcore supergroup, United Nations is a grindcore supergroup, featuring not just the guys from Glassjaw and Thursday, but also (potentially - apparently due to contract-related garbage, other members of the band can be neither confirmed nor denied) members of The Number 12 Looks Like You, Made Out Of Babies, Isis, and Converge.

It'd be foolish of me to not post, in its entirety, the track listing for the album, so here we go:


1. The Spinning Heart of the Yo-Yo Lobby
2. Resolution #9
3. No Sympathy for a Sinking Ship
4. The Shape of Punk that Never Came
5. My Cold War
6. Model UN
7. Filmed in Front of a Live Studio Audience
8. Revolutions in Graphic Design
9. I Keep Living the Same Day
10. Subliminal Testing
11. Say Goodbye to General Figment of the USS Imagination

In case the track listing doesn't do all of my work for me right off the bat, the pictures of the band members wearing the Ronald Reagan Halloween masks over their faces should. They're clearly not happy about the direction in which things are going, and I sure as hell can sympathize. However, they're clearly going about voicing their displeasure in a healthier way than I'd planned to; they're doing it with their tongues planted firmly in their cheeks.

Take, for instance, the first track. While I've listened to so much of this music in the last few years that none of it can unnerve me in the slightest (in truth, most of it causes me to burst out laughing, precisely because it's so over the top emotionally and lyrically, rather like black metal), sometimes it can still grab me in a significant way. The noise, and the way the noise is layered, in "The Spinning Heart of the Yo-Yo Lobby" is as potent and powerful as any a song I'm going to hear this year. The barking, the yelling, the squealing of the guitars... Beautiful, in a way.

Another virtue of many of these "-core" songs is their brevity (my second Shakespeare reference in this post. Might be a record for the blog thus far). With the exception of the last track, none of the songs on the album cross the four-minute mark, and only one of them goes over three minutes. As the last eight years has shown me, it's tough to keep up really righteous fury for a long period of time ("indignance burnout" is the term I've used to describe it), so the short, burst-y nature of the UN album suits what it's trying to accomplish just fine.

It doesn't really let up, either ("The Shape of Punk that Never Came" is obviously the best song that the Refused never wrote), with the exception of a few moments in "Filmed in Front of a Live Studio Audience" and the last minutes of "Say Goodbye to General Figment of the USS Imagination" (thank goodness for saxophone solos - one of the best things that Yakuza has incorporated into their music, and now it's migrated over to the UN record), the record is 27ish minutes of pure, primal (goofy?) fury. It's everything that I wanted Modern Infantry to be, and so much more.

This is easily among the best records I've heard all year (certainly up there with R.E.M.'s new album, and Randy Newman's, as a blasting of the terrible direction the world's taken during the reign of George II), and it features some of the most impressive cover art (see below) I've seen in a long time. They're not taking any prisoners, and I think there's something to be admired in that. It's ambition with focus, with drive, with passion, all of which sets it apart from the new Metallica album (more on that later).


Oh, and I haven't given up on Modern Infantry. I just need to rethink it (again).

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