Monday, October 01, 2007

Those who have some idea what it is that a punk tune can do to get me amped might immediately recognize this extremely-subjective-formula perfectly sorted out in these Tyvek songs. This realization of the constituent elements of this formula got me thinking about some things that together support my rather broad conception of “good” punk rock…an abstraction to be sure, but not without examples that suggest how this abstraction is realized, and often at its best (in my opinion, my opinion, my opinion):

- We get repetitive, marshal rhythms: sometimes a call to arms, but always a call to movement. Fast and keen, it sustains an adroitly minimalist song sculpture, revelatory for its mechanics of extraction and separation: the self-aware foregrounding of self-founding change; a band obviously at work together with a song that seems to move of its own accord (eg. drums push on, the bass picks up with new inflection, and the guitar completes a modulation of the riff, which nevertheless remains recognizable – and all without the loss of a song’s intensity). Together, yeah. Together the rhythm and song sculpture exemplify a wrought under-wroughtness that could just as easily be its inversion, and I always dig this (cf. Times New Viking, Sneaky Pinks, Wax Museums, for something similar going on). Always dig this, but perhaps because I’ve never been able to write a song like this: always only overwrought exercises beyond my perfect execution of them. Is this quality more popularly enjoyable?

- We also get sloppy solos and exuberant shout-along parts. Notable, of course, for their power to pull one out of oneself, unite a listening audience before selfhood can supplant itself. One needn’t stray to a hockey rink to confirm that an exuberant slogan, shouted in concert, represents the bread and butter of a good time, yuh?

- More, the vocals are upfront and range wildly with the tonalities of the songs. Roughly, they oscillate between the evocation of both antithetical senses of the term “nonplussed,” which I think might represent the very limits of the gamut available to punk rock’s first person. On the one hand one encounters surprise and confusion resulting from a singer’s generally negative experience with the status quo (which, ironic or not, tends to characterize less strident strains: personal narratives with the Buzzcocks, eg. Intellectual posturing and Dada/Surrealist shock aesthetics with Devo; unstable delivery in the work of other bands with “artistic” inclinations…and emo, which I guess unites this quality with the “personal” narratives of pop punk). On the other hand, one encounters a complete lack of surprise owing to a singer’s prior negative determination of him or herself (him, too often) and the status quo, apropos of each other (as with the machismo of American Hardcore, and more “politically” positioned artists such as, oh say, Crass, Riot Grrrl and Straight Edge bands…for whom authenticity and adversarial articulations are de rigueur). It is my opinion that shock and familiarity are too often taken to be mutually exclusive in punk rock.

- But Pallies in Tyvek are clearly in dialogue with their tradition. Attention, critique, attitude are here capable of redrafting the discursive limits of experience, prior conceptual systems, what have you. “If you learn to ignore everything is punitive” drawls the fellow on vox during one of these songs, and Mark E. Smith is certainly a handy reference for explaining the affect achieved. Whatever. With this line, angry familiarity and shock are grouped together, and beyond passivity. So, what? We find agency in attention, critique, and the negation which characterized earlier or antecedent punk rock (see Greil Marcus on this for a good read). Tyvek’s lyrics, for instance, return always to a principal preoccupation with malaise: its function as politics when comfort is a priority, and its possible detournement in an electrifying articulation of dissent (eg. repetition of “I don’t need […] I don’t want [… etc.]” in “Give it Up”). All that is really needed to produce a creative experience is this disavowal.

- There are also a few songs with some skronky atonal saxaphone, and I love this sort of thing.

So, Hidy Hidy Ho. All of that to say that I think these songs are some real bangers. I only bring up the above gobbledegook because I think that these strategies are located in the very centre of the heart of the site of the place of tension from which punk rock is pulled in various directions for better (eg. commitment to social justice, formal experimentation, fun times!) or worse (the homophobia of Angry Samoans say, or white power hardcore, but more commonly sexism, misogyny, and heterosexism). And I believe that it has always been punk rock’s mission to inhabit this space (the attempted re-signification of Nazi iconography for example).

I also bring all this up because I cannot help but notice the above elements similarly corralled in the music of a few other bands similarly on the cusp of a more general popularity than such acts tend to enjoy. Overdetermined, wuh? No Age and Mika Miko from LA both come to mind, and both are worth getting into as well y’all. Seems like an exciting time for this sort of stuff: Shwarma Sunderstun has booked Tyvek for Pop MTL & I'm excited to see 'em.

Here are the tracks:

Party on.


Blogger MTD said...

Wow, this is one of those things that on first reading I don't fully absorb for many reasons. I've just finally listened to (most of) this album and I like it a lot. I like how they take this old form and manage to almost replicate it but with subtle changes where it doesn't come across as sounding tired. I can't quite figure out what these guys are doing better than most, perhaps I'll go over your essay again and get LEARNT.

5:34 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home