Anna Minard claims to "know nothing about music." For this column, we force her to listen to random records by artists considered to be important by music nerds.
Machine Gun Etiquette
I was looking forward to listening to some "I am a white dude shouting a lot/My life is very hard" music. I've been doing this column for a while now; maybe I've managed to train my ears so I can hear some special nuances inside British men yelling over their guitars.
Well, that's a no. My first hot tip is: Don't start your day off with the Damned. They're just not an early morning experience. Not even, at least in my case, if you get up feeling cranky. At least not the first track. Just give your ears a minute.
Actually, once Machine Gun Etiquette gets going, it's not so much a blob of I-use-volume-to-express-my-angst kind of playing—it gets more complex and interesting. The song "I Just Can't Be Happy Today," which sounds like it might be a good wake-up-cranky song, has lots of cymbals, then someone yells about the devil, then they go on an Epic Organ Solo.
"These Hands" fails one of the basic tests of whether I can like a song: Is it about a demented circus clown murdering a woman? Oh, it is? Then I'm pressing fast-forward! (Wait... does this song make the Damned proto-Juggalos? Yes?) Thankfully, the next song passes the clown test with flying colors, since the clown test is really a pass/fail situation. "Plan 9 Channel 7" is their excuse to squeal over guitars that are already squealing. Double-squeal! Dudes love to squeal.
Actually, I can't tell how much these guys are making fun of themselves—it might be a lot. They seem like they're having a lot of fun, but I can't tell where the joke line is and where it's serious. (Wait, says Google: Band members include guitarist Captain Sensible and drummer Rat Scabies. I think the seriousness level might tip more toward fun-having and less toward point-making.)
They like maracas. Who doesn't love maracas? The last tracks, "Smash It Up Part One" and "Smash It Up Part Two," are the most fun of the whole thing. The first part is gurgley guitar and bass and some chill, tapping drums. You think a crooner might step up on this, but no, this is a moody instrumental, my friends. Then in part two, they rev up and everyone starts showing off. If the whole album was like this one last track, I would've liked it. "Smash it up, smash it up!" The drummer and guitarist both get to sound really awesome, and I bet they practiced in the mirror a lot. (You can basically hear their faces.)
Try as I might, none of my heartstrings are plucked by this sort of yell-a-thon, even once I realized the boys aren't as angsty as they appear. But has many a young dude tossed his unwashed mane around to the strains of this? Surely. And rightly so.
I give this a "go pluck yourself" out of 10.