Someone once told me that if you only listen to techno, your brain becomes a circuitboard. I'm not sure about that one, but I always try to listen to a lot of different kinds of music, even if I do fall into a techno wormhole every once in a while. As the New York media world self-imploded this week, and every publication in town began approaching grisly horror-show status, it seemed like it was high time for some cathartic and horrible noise. So tonight I caught a quadruple bill of Whitehouse, Wolf Eyes, Pig Destroyer, and, er, Bloody Panda. The last one sounds made up, but I swear it isn't! They're a local doom-metal band. The name reminds me of my short-lived band when I was about 18 years old. OK, we only had one song, and we were mostly about concept, and our name was Throbbing Puppy, the most horrible band name we could think of ('Skinny Gristle' was less catchy.)
Anyway, I was most interested in seeing Wolf Eyes and Whitehouse, but the best and most mental performance of the night (I missed Bloody Panda) was probably Pig Destroyer. Wolf Eyes has boggled my mind in the past--I've raved about them multiple times in print, and their performance at the first No Fun Fest a few years ago was one of the best shows I've ever seen in my life--but this time, their set was just disappointing. It was piercingly loud, sure, but it wasn't terribly interesting to me in terms of sonics, and it was seething with boring male aggression. Lots of fist-pumping and macho posturing and "YAAAARRRRGGGHHHH!" and waves of anger directed at no one in particular. The cool boxes of analog electronics they used last time I saw them didn't seem to be being tweaked as much; instead, they made ample use of what looked like a piece of splintered plywood with some pickups and a few strings nailed to it, attached to a big amp. When I was in college, my pal Matt built a similar device in an afternoon when he was bored, jokingly called it the 'deconstructionist noise stick,' and tried to play the blues on it. I liked that better.
Whitehouse: This was just funny. They're a real comedy act now, aren't they? I think I'll always like William Bennett better as the guitarist in the mighty post-punk band Essential Logic than I will as the leader of this project. I guess I wanted to see racks of fearsome '80s synthesizers and scary-looking people shrieking while bound and gagged, not two sleek laptops and two white dudes in normal clothes on stage (maybe I should have checked out SPK instead?) The key problem with Whitehouse's set was that the sound wasn't loud enough. It's hard to sound overwhelming and massive and horrendous when the club turns you down to a polite volume. Bennett's vocals cracked me up--awful spurts of cackles and shrill, bossy drill-sergeant orders, delivered in this sort of wheedling, needling, nasal tone. It reminded me of PiL in their crap, annoying 'I could be wrong I could be right/I could be black I could be white' phase, crossed with Malcolm McLaren circa 'Buffalo Gals', crossed with the Cornholio character in 'Beavis and Butthead', crossed with Die Tödliche Doris at their goofiest. Later on, a few of my friends and I, exhausted and disappointed by all the shlocky, meaningless pain we'd experienced, repaired to a local watering hole. In a stroke of absolute perfection, one of the first songs to play randomly on the jukebox was X Ray Spex - "Oh Bondage Up Yours." Exactly!