The original intention of this column was to listen to all the records in my collection in alphabetical order by album title. I’ve abandoned that for the most part. But I’ll come back to it periodically.
(Freedom From, 2002)
What does it feel like to have your eardrums ground into hamburger? If you’re like me, you’ve had that question rolling around in your brain for a long time. If you’re also like me, you’ve got the answer at your fingertips – just press play on Hair Police’s Blow Out Your Blood, then sit back, relax, and let the mulching of your auditory sensors commence.
That is absolutely no exaggeration. Hair Police formed in Louisville, Kentucky, in 2001 with an original lineup of Robert Beatty, Ross Compton, Mike Connelly, Matt Minter, and Trevor Tremaine, and they turned hardcore and thrash on its head – no, make that inside out – as they pounded, scraped, retched, bashed, and destroyed equipment and themselves to wring the harshest possible noise from the deepest possible depths. Guitars and electronics and drums and vocals, all deconstructed under the auspices of low fidelity, seep together in a shitty maelstrom that’s part gag reflex and part war cry. This is punk rock for people who hate consistency.
It reminds me of the old joke: How many hardcore punkers does it take to screw in a lightbulb? Poof. Enter Satan, the devil. “I’ll field this one. All of them.” And just like that, every single hardcore punk fan that is and ever was is crammed into a standard size 60-watt lightbulb, each one’s essence so tightly packed into the glass casing that the pain blurs into time and space, becoming its own dimension. It’s true hell. Wait, did I mention there was a joke in here somewhere? No, no – I’m deadly serious. Hair Police works in a similar form of interdimensionality to create abstract expressionist pain rather than music – I think – warping the identity of style and genre on an event horizon that can only rip you to shreds on the other side of it. Their forebears are the industrial noisemongers Throbbing Gristle and Einsturzende Neubauten, and their contemporaries are horrific electronic manipulators Wolf Eyes (for whom Mike Connelly would leave Hair Police in 2005), insane pummeler Black Pus (aka Brian Chippendale), and improv screechers Nautical Almanac.
This is not easy stuff to digest, and that’s quite all right. There are very few moments to be wasted when one fills as much of the audible space with chaos as one can muster. “Finding Out What Bush Is” quickly makes it clear that there’s no messing around as it squalls unrelentingly for just under two minutes. “That’s Not Blood” features a false beginning of rolled toms and pulsing synth (or treated electronic components, not sure which), an almost HEALTH-like rhythmic workout, but the intro lasts mere seconds, and after four bars the space is filled again with the screech of the band.
The songs are mostly under two minutes, although some stretch and some fall short of that time – this is good in Hair Police land, as the bite-size chunks give a bit of breathing room (although not too much). “Winning the Contest” plays more like a sound collage as backing for the spoken vocals, although pretty much everything is buried under crushed metal. “Worldbeater” matches its pummel with grindcore shrieks, and “Do You Love Hip Hop?” incorporates klaxon-ic rhythmic breaks within its 42 seconds, a nice change. Standout (and awesomely titled) “Vocalist Dan Marino” comes closest to traditional thrash, but flailing drums and squiggling electronics keep it firmly planted in noise territory. If the band was smart, they’d make a series of these songs – “Vocalist Joe Montana,” “Vocalist Randall Cunningham,” “Vocalist Vinny Testaverde” – the possibilities are vast.
Try, try, try as I might, I just can’t bring myself to recommend this as a starting point for the noise genre – I think Wolf Eyes is a much better entry point. (They were mine – try Dead Hills.) Even though Hair Police sounds like an actual band playing actual … “things” – as opposed to the laptop and pedal crowd with their faces buried in concentration – it can still be a little difficult. But – for those who are tired of their hardcore and grindcore records sounding too similar to each other, I can’t recommend Hair Police enough. This reminds me of another joke, actually: Knock knock. Who’s there? Hair Police. Hair Police who? If you come with expectations of “art-damaged” as an adjective for Hair Police, you will only truly get it when you finally leave the “art” part at the door. Damaged it is then. Consider your blood blown.
RIYL: Wolf Eyes, Throbbing Gristle, Black Pus