Monday, February 18, 2008

leak of the week - street horrrsing

of all the awesome things about fuck buttons (trust me, there are many), the undeniably awesomest thing about the band is their name. it's got an attention-grabbing expletive, but unlike fellow swear bands, the harshness of the "fuck" is blunted by the benign "buttons," so their name becomes a curiosity, not a curse. and then the questions - what does it mean? is it an imperative? are bandmates andrew hung and benjamin john power commanding us to (as anatomically unlikely as it is), have intercourse with buttons? are they referencing the strange and awesome power of multiple clitorii? or maybe it's an ejaculation of anger, as in "fuck [those goddamn] buttons!" when you say "fuck buttons," is there an exclamation point at the end? maybe it has some relationship to their instrumentation; do none of their noisemaking gadgets have buttons? to tell the truth, i'm happier not knowing, because a) it really has no relevance to fuck buttons' sound, and b) i'm happy with the way i say it, with a great big ! at the end, in an extremely happy voice (unnecessary swearing is a joy), and with the hard "ck" and crisp "tt" bouncing off my tongue. i think i would like fuck buttons even if their music sucked, because their name is so much fun. fortunately, as i said at the beginning of this long-winded and rambling paragraph, their name is only the most awesome thing about fuck buttons, not the only.

street horrrsing is fuck buttons' first LP but their third overall release, distributed by ATP recordings (a label i had hitherto not known the existence of, but with some significant releases under their belts). a few impressive things about fuck buttons: they were tapped for an ATP performance after releasing only two songs, they were picked by pitchfork for their own ATP event (sensing a pattern here?), and, unrelatedly, they're totally amazing. street horrrsing includes all of fuck buttons' previously released material, but sounds fresh regardless. i hesitate at using the term "noise rock" to describe fuck buttons )though that is almost certainly the correct one), because i hear virtually no similarities between their sprawling, gargantuan sound and the often aimless and self-gratifying sonic squeals of other practitioners of that genre. fuck buttons are riveting, engaging and imaginative, musicians who occupy the coveted, and strangely tender, space that exists at the intersection of melody and noise.

i think fuck buttons' secret is rather simple, though that doesn't limit its quality. even while lambasting ears with unbelievable sounds, fuck buttons' noise is always, always musical. a shocking revelation, this. hissy, staticy, feedbacky, yes, but it is never dissonant, never atonal, never pure, alienating noise and volume for its own (unnecessary) sake. fuck buttons' careful mastery of the noise/melody merge not only makes street horrrsing one of the more impressive debut albums i've heard in years, but also means fuck buttons are the best hope for intelligent progressive rock since godspeed you! black emperor (r.i.p.?)

"sweet love for planet earth" is arguably the best song on street horrrsing, which makes it equally arguably the best thing fuck buttons have ever written. this nine minute opus that titled the band's first EP exemplifies the appeal of fuck buttons through the dichotomous juxtaposition of noise and melody, and is remarkably tight and succinct considering its near-epic length. the song opens with tinkly droplets of sound, the musical equivalent to ripples in a pond, and by its fourth minute, "sweet love"'s melody is riding a reverberating crescendo, pulsating with sonic fury, still accompanied by the tender melody that began it. in spite of its intensity (or due to it), "sweet love" has the remarkable ability to bring serentity and calm even as power screams indistinguishably, his voice little more than distorted vowels. like all of street horrrsing, "sweet love" is impeccably balanced, so that the supposedly brutal sounds are never deafening, and always exist in harmony with its more peaceable side.

the best fuck buttons songs are made using the blueprint of "sweet love" without falling victim to simple replication of its enticing formula. "okay, let's talk about magic" is another lengthy work (at ten minutes, street horrrsing's longest) that is ground in hissy volume and constant beating of drums, and accentuated by another dose of possibly-verbal bellowing, with the vocals mixed at a lower volume than the music so that they are merely a different-sounding instrument.

the only fuck buttons song i can readily identify by name is "sweet love for planet earth," and that's not likely to change. without identifying verbal characteristics, street horrrsing blends together into a 50 minutes of zen-like intensity, unhindered by a need for narrative exposition, climax, and denouement. it is constantly, cyclically powerful, a record that has accompanied me on subways, sidewalks, and sleep. don't bother listening to it with your friends; for one thing, they probably won't get it, and for another, you should really absorb it alone, and without interruption. listening to street horrrsing has made me a happier person.

"sweet love for planet earth" & "bright tomorrow"

street horrrsing is expected later this year on ATP recordings.

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