Nobody seems to know how many studio albums Bong have made. Stoner Rock is their fourth on Ritual Productions, but like the Krautrock and Japrock progenitors, collecting, collating and accounting for the myriad of vinyl, tape, re-releases and side-cuts quickly became almost impossible, and a band with such extended songs, differentiating album from EP becomes merely a semantic point; either of the two tracks from Stoner Rock is longer than the entire Nails discography. Their two previous notable releases, Mana-Yood Sushai and its sequel, Idle Days on the Yann both felt like end points, and still do. Added to that is their latest end point, abandoning Lord Dunsany pre-Lovecraftian horrors and strange lands in favour of a full-fledged jab at all the lazy genre-minded critics who explain the existence of Bong in the frame of ‘stoner rock’. Stoner Rock is their simultaneous entry, definition, critique of and departure from that genre tag. Their goal? Tonal dominion. Their methods? Unchanged; molasses sound and texture.
Who would have predicted that two and a bit years ago this blog would still be ignored by everyone (excepting random abuse hurled our way) and I'd be staring down the barrel of writing my two-hundredth piece? Well, me, I figured my life wouldn't have much moved on. So I've brought you some very bitter things about Tool.
|Maynard James Keenan|
Photo: Paul Bergen
When I was a teenager, in the mid-noughties, we piggybacked the gen-x sense of nihilism and self-awareness by liking Bill Hicks, and listening to Nirvana and Tool. I hope to grow out of these interests, and have become more self-critical of them; but many of my contemporaries have not. That’s the biggest problem with Tool and a lot of the other nineties nostalgia properties, their chief theme of kicking away from the Regan eighties is doubly irrelevant in the post Bush/Blair world and to the UK mindset. These same revolutionary acts such as Bill Hicks are frequently ruined by their fans. Tool are a fascinating band with reliably interesting music derailed by idiot fans. When I say idiot fans, make no mistake, I mean tier-one simpletons. The sort of people who profess to love Fight Club seemingly without understanding the point of that book. People who on the one hand appreciate the multiple layers of the excellent H. and on the other say without irony “hey, we should all think for ourselves, like Bill Hicks told us to”. Opinion on Tool’s music is neatly divided, between these sort of non-sentient morons who blindly defend the liner note image of a cow licking its rectum, and the sort of semi-critical non-tribal homo sapiens who might appreciate some of the things Tool do but are far put off by the former camp to actually try them out.
There is a terrible blight to which many arts journalists succumb; to believe, or at least project that each piece of creative media is not only a nice film, or piece of music or book or piece of erotic protest street art, but also a signal and a sign and a moment in wider culture. Some are worse than others and I’m a pretty bad offender, but it can’t be stated often enough that most artists have no interest in creating some sort of wave. Their back yard rumblings and filthy rock and roll fables are meant as pure entertainment, or perhaps an exploration of the human condition. They aren’t meant to signify a shift towards more drone-oriented rock and roll in the mainstream, and a new release isn’t always a “fall from grace” or a “return to glory” and much as it pains me, not every record by a reliably great artist is worth talking about. This year has seen two artists loved by this here blog place release so-so records, up to their usual standards, but look at our comments about their previous records and we’re pretty much still there.
People wonder how abrasive and violent music can be meaningful and powerful, outside of the primal noise thrill, and to them I have the honour to present Street Sects and their mindblowing early 2014 drop, the Morning After the Night We Raped Death. For people who wished 16 Volt had kept making records and blended with Acid Bath, in between the dehumanising electronic squeals, the Mariana-deep drums or the drum machine that sounds like a vintage German MG42 cycling; outside of the vocal, buried and lethal like a Mongolian death worm. Their sound is mechanical, hermetically sealed, but wild and inhospitable, like the blasting clean of a sandstorm or a Gigeresque monster prowling empty spaceship corridors. It’s electronics meets grindcore, it moves at a million miles an hour and you Need It.
2014 isn't resting, we've already got a first great record, and it comes from Mike Vest. Guitar in the monolithic Bong, who are like latterday OM playing early Sleep records while falling into the mantle of a collapsing star. He’s in more bands than I can list, so the chances of a self-indulgent solo project were minimal, and it snuck out under the radar. It’s unsurprising given his CV that his solo guitar work is a formless and epic, explorative and meditative L+R headphone essential in the form of Black Distilment and Fine Membrane Sheath from Vest, self released under the name Basillica.
(Dark Time Sunshine – ANX, Propo ’88 & Blabbermouf – From the Top of the Stack)