Friday, November 13, 2009

The Bomb- Speed is Everything

I like Punk rock. Having said that, I know that Punk Rock involves some artificial limitations that turn a lot of musicians off. Ideally, the Punk ethos is that "Anybody could do it". That's actually a pretty tough row to hew if you think about it. It's like writing haiku- of all the sounds available, you have to cling to only these few.
But, also like Haiku, if you maintain the discipline, you are rewarded with a kind of Freedom- in that you can explore vast worlds of music.
That universe of music is large enough that I can honestly say that I detest some stuff that fits under the rubric of "punk rock' more than I dislike whole other genres, while still really enjoying "punk rock". If you can understand that, you can start to see the kind of scope I'm talking about.
So, Jeff Pezzati specializes in Punk, which should then tell you zero about the music he makes, right?
What I mean is that he explores whole continents of melody, while sticking with a 4/4 verse-chorus limited pop song format. He's by and large unschooled, and relies upon his guitarists for arrangements. So, his once and future band, Naked Raygun really owes a lot of the sound to John Haggerty's minimalism. The Bomb, the band at hand, right now, seems more collaborative. There is a lot more focus on vocal harmony. Not quite like the Undertones, but still, Jeff is singing much more than his chanting in Naked Raygun. Still the guitars are co-stars, here. Jeff Dean has a lot of force to exert, and deploys his riffs in bursts like he's hoarding secrets. He can be as minimal as John Haggerty ( I think "The Rescue" might have less than 3 chords) But he employs strategies worthy of Robert Fripp- using chromatic dissonance to create tension in "Haver", using minor-to-major modalities in "Not Christmas Night" to slow down the melody- almost to a hover while keeping the tempo at appropriate Punk rock breakneck speed. So, yes, it's pretty, and has a lot of energy, but this is a far cry from "stupid". There's even a canny re-imagining of a Flock of Seagulls' "Space age Love Song" as a postpunk shimmer.
This stuff also points out the strength Punk Rock has, which almost always gets ignored. For sheer ferocity, heavy metal beats Punk rock. There are dozens of Hardcore, electronic, and even new music composers who can summon up more of an unfocused threat than punk rock ever has. No, the strength that Punk rock has is in re-shaping aggression, and passion into structured Pop music. Anybody can scream, but Art is made by conveying a scream without screaming. That's what The Bomb has done.
A special mention should be made of the production- J. Robbins had a big hand in shaping this sound, and as he always does, his touch on this is perfect- I defy you to find more ear pleasing production than he works up!
So, if you want to hear what the platonic ideal for Punk Rock is, in 2009, Speed is Everything!

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