Mike Bell, “Monroe Station”
Florida has serious glaucoma-patient album art visuals. For real: looking at the thing is like being stranded in an episode of Swamp People after losing your prescription frames and being doused with a bucket of eye-dilation solution. (I have no clue what Florida the movie is about, and I’m not sure I even want to know.) The 24-minute long “Station” sounds a lot like that cover art looks: diffuse, blurred, sprawling, uncomfortably numb. “Drone” works as a catch-all descriptor for what Bell is about here, but there’s a bunch of facets to that drone. There is, early on, the intense suggestion of rustling, restless strings, but shortly thereafter come moments where those string get horror-flick scary. There are stretches where it’s hard to say whether all the tones teeming for purchase are the howling spawn of electronics, guitars, horns, or some disemboweled amalgamation of the three. Sometimes it seems we as listeners have stumbled upon the fevered mass polishing of some very large and sensitive tuning fork. But: we don’t always have to have all the answers. Confusion can be as luxuriant and reassuring, in its own way, as certainty.
Juiceboxxx, “Expressway to the Darkness”
Whenever chainsaws turn up in the first 10 to 20 seconds of a song, you know that shit is about to go down for real. “Expressway to the Darkness” ripcords to life that way, snarling rudely with a curled lip, pulsing with the wounded velocity of a lawnmower someone kicked five or six times to get it going. Handclaps are condensed into cheap, concussive backbeats before real, punishing drums grab that baton, blood-red synthesizers dare you to stare back, the title gets flogged fifteen ways from Sunday. It’s Suicide as much as it’s the Raveonettes or Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, but the governing melody and sprightliness owe something to “Footloose.”
Either you’re totally buying into Juiceboxx’s three a.m. reverie—the title of the album it’s on is called I Don’t Wanna Go Into The Darkness, and there are a couple of songs where he raps/sings/toasts about the darkness, so maybe this is a semi-celebration of the Dylan Thomas classic, you know the one—or you’re unimpressed and cracking jokes about how he’s really just trying to figure out how to get to tonight’s The Darkness show or going to hang out with Ortho “The Darkness” Stice, who’s an Infinite Jest character. Me? I’m hip, which is to say: I don’t know what Juiceboxxx is saying, exactly, but I’m convinced.
Animal Collective, “Today’s Supernatural”
Animal Collective attracts breathless adjectives like lint brushes gather dander. Here are a few that have either occurred to me, or that I’ve stumbled upon in press accounts over the years: “childlike,” “puerile,” “psychedelic,” “wild,” “twee-house,” “bent.” Until “Today’s Supernatural,” I’d never had occasion to come away from one of the group’s electronically mishandled/upended excursions muttering “filthy” under my breath, yet here I am, and I feel compelled to repeat myself: filthy, and not like “adorably tribal” filthy, but more like “psychotic and living in the woods and showering with twigs and dirt” filthy. (Never fear, Sung Tongs die-hards: the descriptors I ticked off in the second sentence still work, too.)
The filth here is of the sort that calls the wrong kind of attention to itself. There’s a demonic black magic orbiting the core of this song, and it manifests itself both in Avey Tare’s manic, ripping-out-his-fingernails vocal turn—those bull-roaring “lelelelelelet it go” ululations never fail to take me back to the climax of Lin Shaye’s deathless performance in Kingpin—and in the way the rhythm gesticulates and thrashes like a crazed money struggling to keep pace with feverish keyboards churned into being by a sadistic organ grinder. Like I said before: filthy, filthy, filthy, this thing, and thank Boognish for that.