Norway - Full Moon 179 - 04/18/11
It's a label showdown!
Metronomicon Audio vs. Jester Records - Round 22
Täppas Strepens: The Great American Brainkiller
(2005 Metronomicon Audio: MEAU.0022.CDR)
(2002 Jester Records TRICK-022)
Welcome to round 22 in the label showdown series between Metronomicon Audio and Jester Records!
Since we've more or less totally missed out on reviewing the output of these two great labels, we are going
through their entire catalogues, matching the releases from each label consecutively against each other.
Humorously counting goals
and giving out yellow
and red cards, soccer style -
but first of all reviewing the music. For more introductory information on this label match, see
The Great American Brainkiller is presented in the typical Metronomicon fashion - a CD-R packed in a flexible plastic sleeve with a cardboard folder containing art, lyrics & information.
The Upland release comes in a jewel case and a booklet with art.
The Great American Brainkiller is the 4th release from Täppas Strepens, Metronomicon's political voice,
at least considering his matter-of-fact lyrics, often speaking against injustice and the sickness of the western world.
Musically, Strepens is not afraid of repeating himself, often using the same pattern of four guitar strumming chords,
and not bothering to change them much from one song to the next. But Strepens' main focus is on the lyrics, and this time they
The album starts off with "Various Angry Ramblings", an up-tempo song where Strepens displays his view on world leaders (visionless
word spillers), the police (wasting time chasing kids with spray cans), the advertisement business (spreading garbage
on the same walls), women's magazines (portraying women as lifeless), record companies (greedy music-hating
bastards), world of fashion (pretenders), and finally Strepens himself (but he won't listen).
Good to see some humour at the end there, after raising his fists againts half the world. The lyrics sum
up Strepens viewpoint, which can easily be described as a socialist one, at least many Americans would say so.
"Yeller Cab" is slowing down musically, and it's more elaborate lyrically, describing how living in big cities can make
people feel superficial and dehumanized, blinded by speed and technology. The mid-tempo "Radio Europe"
is a history lesson for both Europeans and Americans, where Strepens lashes out against the US for being a nation
with no cultural history, obsessed with physical largeness and ignorant about the native Indians, while Europe's
cultural history is depicted as a history of oppression by and struggle against inbred leaders. And according to
Strepens it all goes back to Jesus, who was "pretty cool", but after that it went downhill. How this connects to
the French getting a whipping for making all their pornos look like art, beats me. Then he moves on to the Middle
East conflict, telling both sides to wisen up, before pointing the finger at Norway and finally me and you:
"And I guess that only leaves me and you and let's just be honest we're idiots too.".
Everybody can improve.
Slowing down again with "Ketchup & Wrestling", whose lyrics are a little more cryptic, perhaps a sleepy
anthem partly supporting trash culture and its users/victims. It goes without saying that the up-tempo "Janet Jackson's Nipple"
is commenting on the US culture, and the lyrics are simply put a shortlist of the many paradoxes of the American way
way of living, thinking, acting, believing and looking at other people and nations. I wouldn't go on tour in
the US with this song, unless you like a good beating and cold cell floors. Slowing down a bit, "They Speak In Slogans"
comments on the "drive-thru opinions" (what a great phrase!) that is formed by tabloid press and modern
politicians' sloganized way of "reporting" and "debating". I don't have the time for anything but easy solutions,
hand me the hammer. The even slower "Slaves Of The Scenery" seems to be about the food industry, perhaps
also alienation in general. Musically this is the highlight of the album and the only song that is
shining productionwise, with lush keyboards, organ, a fine slide guitar and an even finer Sandvik Stradivarius saw!
Finishing off the album is an untitled hidden track, a banjo and flute instrumental.
To sum it up: Though there is next to no variation musically, the inclusion of printed lyrics makes this the
best Strepens release so far. A decade of irony made artists reluctant to say anything straight up (not
counting the punk and hardcore culture), and we're still in recovery, half numbed in post-ironic distress. I don't mean that all artists should be
writing political lyrics, or even meaningful lyrics, but I miss the occasional artist giving it to us from the gut. The Great American Brainkiller
is Strepens' manifesto, sucking you back from the void of lame and
crappy utterings often accompanying music.
There is very little info included in Upland's self-titled release, but this seems to be the brainchild of Knut Andreas Ruud.
The included art folder depicts what appear to be a shattering ball (or globe), so don't prepare yourself for an uplifting session.
"Flex" starts off with reptilian clicks, soon rhythmic, developing into almost funky patterns panning between left and right channels.
"Twin Gap" also use these same kind of short noisy blips, adding synth chords, electronic pots and pans, again with extreme stereo effects.
"-nd Falling" sounds like a wacky synthetic accordion with lots of reverb, played to a broken drum machine going half amok.
"Root" is more ambient, like crystal glasses and empty metal barrels resonating to their different frequencies,
while "Block" returns to fast ticking from electronic insects with spooky monotonous synth tones.
"Carrier Down" is on the melancholy side, with keyboard tones to sparse bass and right/left rhythmic noises and the occasional bursts of clicks,
creating a feeling of alienated sadness from a mechanized world.
The bass and chords synth theme of "Marshgate" is somewhat overshadowed by these relentless clicking rhythmics and what sounds like a breathing apparatus.
After a bit of silence, the track (or perhaps a bonus track) continues with a repeating bass sliding down a more steady and traditional
rhythmic pattern, joined by a couple of eerie synth tones.
To sum it up: Upland's will to experiment is clear. Admittedly, I'm not a fan of
the kind of fast rhythmic/arrhythmic glitch/noise that is used throughout several of these tracks, I find them
to be distracting rather than involving when fired this rapidly.
The end product is not too imaginative or innovative anyway, only halfway escaping traditional musical
rhythms and tonality, and otherwise using a rather small palette of sounds and techniques, with little variation, and to little impact.
Match result: Metronomicon Audio 4 () - Jester Records 1 ()
Next head-to-head meeting is the Magnus Moriarty™ CD Sky-Fi Beatitude from Metronomicon Audio which is up against
the When Sunshine Superhead single/EP CD release from Jester Records.
Copyright © 2011 Knut Tore Breivik