(Spectrum Spools, 2012)
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Alex Moskos’s – Drainolith’s sole member’s – origin story before diving into the writhing cesspool that is Fighting!. See, it’s not such a stretch to imagine Moskos springing from the untamed Canadian wilderness, feral and unhinged as he is, and in fact he matured as an artist in the midst of a pack of canines, a species known as the AIDS Wolf (canis autoimmunis), cutting his teeth on the wild, weird, and wacky noise rock circuit. But it turns out that Moskos preferred the path of the loner, content to howl at low moons on foggy nights, and thus the hunt began for the Drainolith, which is … uh … a monument (?) to … um … Drano? Crap, I have no idea what a Drainolith is. The thread is broken. No more wolf metaphors.
Moskos doesn’t really howl either, that term was simply a function of the narrative which has now ceased to be relevant, so let’s leave it and head for the truth: a low-register speak-sing can be just as bone-chillingly creepy as a sudden piercing shriek. And that’s what Drainolith does here – he gets in your head, whispers weird shit, pats you on the back, and sends you on your way to – I dunno, lapse into a tragic x-ray negative of your own life over a period of years? It’s a slow burn, that’s for sure.
Fighting! exists somewhere on the noise rock and no wave spectrum, but doesn’t bludgeon you over the head with feedback or squall. The guitar is played in a disjointed rhythmic manner, and so is the percussion, and sometimes they fight each other in a free jazz pileup. The percussion itself sounds like someone banging on a contact mic underneath a sleeping bag, and it’s compressed to the point of sinus headache. The guitars sound like they’re being strangled, yelping and squealing. And somehow, all of this is, believe it or not, quite pleasant.
See, even though Drainolith wants to be confrontational in his approach, it’s the way that he’s confrontational that actually makes him confrontational. He’s slippery – he plays conventional music in unconventional ways, and his deconstructionist mindset leaves the listener wondering if he’s having a laugh or if he’s freaking serious. I’m not sure if I’m really in a position to hope that he falls into one of those two camps, and I’m not sure if I want to be. That’s where the fun of dissection comes in, and if you come out the other end digested and confused, it’s probably been a pretty weird ride, and you should be thankful for it. You might be covered in unmentionable substances, but hey, who else is gonna admit to what just happened?
I had a moment during “Blam’s Again” when I realized what Moskos was doing, and I facepalmed and shouted “Of course!” and “Eureka!” and “I AM BECOME EAGLE AND SOAR!” and other such nonsense. No, I didn’t, I was driving, I would have crashed. Up until that point I had been operating under the assumption that he was warping the trajectory of modern music into something meant to be new and unclassifiable and weird, and it’s not that at all – Fighting! is, in the end, a bizarro take on traditional songwriting, and in the case of “Blam’s” he’s really just reinterpreting back-porch folk and country & western music – in an abstract and skeezy way, of course, as if it were meant to be listened to with your eyes through a prism in the seconds of life you have left after having your throat slit. …I can get into that.
And I should have known all along – it was probably because the metadata of my MP3 was a little sketchy and the song title didn’t have the parenthetical addition on my iPod screen, but “She’s IN Insurgency (Steve’s Lunch Blues),” a Beck-ish title for sure, absolutely is rooted in blues traditions. Even though that rhythm is all over the place. In fact, it’s essentially blues as imagined by sentient lawnmower (which is really what Beck is anyway, what with the Scientology and all), a shredded, grimy take on the style, and one that sounds as if it might fall apart without a little tinkering or WD-40.
Even when Drainolith puts aside the guitar in favor of a synthesizer, the gritty embolisms of tunes remain – no smooth outer-space doodling here. “Southern Eye” and especially “Sevens/Cuttin’ Squares” contain actual pleasant tonal passages, even though in the end they end up sounding like Stellar OM Source and Power Pill Fist rubbing glass into each other’s faces until both artists become sand, ferment overnight into a liquor that Moskos finds in the morning, drinks, dies, and then he writes these two songs from … BEYOND THE GRAVE. [Ed. Note: How the hell am I supposed to check the grammar on this run-on?] Point is, there are six really weird songs on Fighting!, each one a bizarre distillation of the album as a whole, and all strangely compelling to figure out. I’d dust off your history books a little first, but get in there and get Drainolith.
RIYL: U.S. Maple, Nate Young, Stare Case, They Were Wrong So We Drowned, AIDS Wolf, early Silver Jews
“YOU PAID FOR IT”
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