Monday, March 12, 2012

Having Ears

There are a lot of approaches you can take to making music. Music is artifice.

Chuck Norris are from Brazil, and they are "power violence", reduced to rules. Power violence, despite relentless subgenrification, has artistically liberating potential (MITB being the obvious pick, but its essence is something like "take metally thrash, play it fast and fucked up, ignore formal song structure, lose teeth if possible", so at its best it's like, total musical freedom), but in the hands of Chuck Norris it's like "fast metally Dis-y thrash part, fast metally Dis-y thrash part, fast metally Dis-y thrash part, POP! build-up, build-up, fast metally Dis-y thrash part!". Every once in a while there's a murky movie sample in Portuguese with some gunshots. From the same turn-of-the-milennium wave as Charles Bronson, the Indianan power violence dudes, they chose a more scrutable 70s action icon to name their band after. Since I haven't listened to my Charles Bronson records in something like ten years, I can't say if they are less boring than Chuck Norris, but their namesake is sure a lot cooler (of course it doesn't help that Norris turned into a cheezy meme in the meantime and had a less-than-dignified reaction to it). Anyway, Jäzzus are where it's at on this record.

Jäzzus are from Brazil, and they are "power violence", with their own rules. Also, they decided to put an umlaut over the "a" in their name. This particular umlaut denotes approximately 4-6 layers of irony (Motörhead => Mötley Crüe => Hüsker Dü => Spinal Tap (umlaut over the "n" and a dotless "i" => Grotus (umlauts over all the consonants but none of the vowels...). The grooves they lay down have the same degree of removal from ur-metal as the Metal Umlaut has from the Germanic Umlaut. There are zombies on the cover, and murky, useless samples from (I assume Brazilian) horror movies throughout their set. The samples sound about the same as the Chuck Norris ones (wait, is this a tie-in with the cover? Are these samples all from the same zombie movie? Is it "Coffin Joe"??? Is this a theme?) but this time I want to hear them cause I'm still all like "fuck yeah!" from trying to wrap my chaotically spasming head around the confusing music. This record rules, y'all.

And like after the murky screaming in Portuguese and the monster roars and then the singer dude's throat opens up and the band roars out and it's fast with beats but no Dis, no D-beat, no sir, the D is nowhere to be found! (Holy crap, it's "the D-beat in musical notation"! I can give up on "new music" now!) Nope, this one is all fast band notes pouring out of a dude's throat, tempos shifting and no sense to be had, nowhere in earshot. Jäzzus take the physical sense of the word "thrash" seriously. Rules!

(D-beat is to 90s punk what the Amen break is to 90s electronic music. Really! Just thought I'd throw that out there.)

Ok, rules! It rules cause it's got its own rules, dig? Also it rules in another sense: I've got a 12" (that's right, I said it) but I found this online review (with a handy list of bands they're in now in the comment section!) of the same record as a split 7". Where'd my 12" come from? I guess cause someone realized a 7" is nice and all, but if you want to sell more copies to collector scum like me, a 12" will get more attention. You gotta break out the ruler and see who's bigger.

Which is interesting, cause underground punk/thrash is hyper-concerned with authenticity, and it would seem that visibility is the opposite of that. ("That's a top selling author. Do we want that in here?") So I mean, where do you draw the line? There was that thing last month where this grind band called Violent Anal Devastation crashed a Gingrich rally and someone interviewed them and was like "But how are we supposed to know your songs are about women's issues or the environment or whatever cause your band's called Violent Anal Devastation and it sounds like you're just screaming 'Blargy blarg wargy warg boog boog doogie blarg blarg!'?" and they were all "Duh, Violent Anal Devastation refers to the systematic rape of the earth and oppressed people and we sing like that cause it sounds cool". But srsly, are we talking past or talking to? Punk! Jesus said, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear." RZA said:

don't think we doing this just for anybody
We doing this shit for certain n****z kid
Certain people rather, certain
Certain fans, certain supporters
Certain delegators

So at some point, we gotta just talk to the ones who will listen. And for Brazilian thrashy punks, that means their scene, sure, but you know who else will listen? Record collectors. We record collectors love authenticity. Record collectors. Those of us who aren't pathetic losers with baggage are just privileged white American dudes. With baggage.

Ok so, we can I agree that I have "ears", then. (Really it's the eyes that count cause these dudes are screaming blargitty blarg and it's in Portuguese to boot.) Let's talk about the lyrics, shall we?

"More underground, the better. More your band becomes great and recognized, the better. More your get recognized and popular, the better. This way I can feel good about myself for saying that I am your friend." (Chuck Norris, "Quero Ter Status" ["Wanna Have Status"])

"More and more you accept the comfortable options... Your revolutionary positions become only a funtime on a weekend." (Chuck Norris, from "Você Está Acomodado" ["You Are Settled"])

"What happened to you? Got far from your friends? Took over some responsibilities and felt better, more grown-up than us. People change, I know. But I wish you were the same." (Chuck Norris, "Mudança" ["Change"])

"I also want a split with Agathocles. I will do MY split with Agathocles. Only I will have this split with Agathocles. And they won't even know It can be cassette, an EP or LP. The format doesn't matter! What matters is that it will be with Agathocles." (Jäzzus, from "Já Não Quero Mais um Split com o Agathocles" ["Now I Don't Want a Split with Agathocles Anymore"]) (Who is Agathocles?)

"Let's rebel! This night is my turn with my new 'punk' CD. Saving the world for 20 Brazilian bucks while 'independent' corporation profits even more. Independent of what? If your behavior is the same as the big ones. It is just a way to make profits. It is only independent what will be said (will it?). Revolutionary themes or machos stupidities don't depend on nothing, both sell." (Jäzzus, "Independente, O Que Importa É Que Vende" ["Independent, What Matters Is That Sells"])

The punk paradox. You're only really punk if you live the ideal of fighting against the system. But if you want anyone to care, your music's gotta rule. The time you spend making awesome music is time you're taking away from fighting the system. The more comfortable you are, the easier it is to make and consume awesome music. And so it goes. Life in the state of nature is nasty, brutish, and short. So we conquered nature with art and artifice. We established a system that breeds injustice, hate, and environmental devastation in equal measures. But the winners win. We trade humanity for our humanity.

I live in suburban comfort and I like listening to music that rails against comfortable suburban lifestyles. Shit.

Record collectors, those that are music fans, we get this. The good that is human in us responds to the human good that is musical artifice. Music pulls back the veil in a way that words alone cannot. We see the injustice, we hate the hate, we have ears, but we lack the will or the strength or something to give up our piece of the system-pie. The patheticness and baggage come from the same place as the privilege and comfort: hegemony, dude. "Soft power". Cultural might. White Americans get it from the system and if they can't wield it, they get baggage. Either way, we're not doing the right thing.

Those of you who have privilege, and ears: I recommend that you wear your privilege with humility.