Thursday, February 14, 2013

Olden Daze

Here's a review of our first record from the distant past by the glorious Tris McCall (he makes us feel good about ourselves):

Thursday, March 04, 2004
The Multi-Purpose Solution
Title: The MPs

From: Essex and Passaic Counties. That's what it says on the album, anyway -- the address listed in in Clifton. I know the guitar player was living in Newark at the time of release, but he's not there anymore.

Format: Full-length LP.

Fidelity: Jersey indie. Jersey independent studios and engineers have a tendency to want to isolate instruments when recording even the most ferocious rock bands, or, when isolation isn't available, to still chase after the clean sound of isolated instruments. More on this in the "what's not so good" section, but now let's get to what's good.

Genre: Post-punk/indie-rock. Multi-Purpose Solution shares many formal features with the turn-of-the-decade New Brunswick coterie of groups that spent Saturday nights at the Court Tavern and Melody Bar, and late May at the Wilmington Exchange. Think Aviso'Hara.

Arrangements: Two guitars -- one distorted electric razor of an instrument playing big chords, and another scrawling single or double-note lines over the top. Rock and roll bass and drums, some guitar processing (including a particularly effective phaser on "Combiner", and a great sci-fi sound effect at the tail end of "Superman's Flying, The Guns Are Shooting"), and backing vocals on a song or two.

What's this record about?: Lots. Destructive relationships, bodily functions, weapons, automobiles, capitalism and culture, the liminality of the artist. The Multi-Purpose Solution can't decide if their artistry and passion makes them criminals, or if it's the other way around. The lyrics spring out of the speakers with the chaotic urgency of internet rants: words are coined ("insanefulness", "sansparachuting", "freeopoly"), syntax garbled to liberating effect, screeds suddenly break into articulate Italian. Singer Jim Teacher swears, gets sarcastic, intentionally misquotes classic rock songs, talks about his major and ponders slitting his own throat. If he's wallowing, he's having a great time doing so: trying to figure out whether to participate in the modern culture or to tear it down, and letting us all in on those ruminations. "It would be so much fucking simpler/just to be criminal", he ponders, before declaring himself and his peers "jackals or businessmen", anyway. The individual tracks have the feel of open-ended intervierws with a loose-lipped poet -- clearing his throat, speaking his piece, enjoying the cadence and feel of his prose even when he's saying the most desperate things, periodically pressing "pause". Inspirational verse for all you Jersey cats: "Life's not like the Hackensack/where all the human shit gets dumped and don't come back/Life's not the Passaic/just rooting around for its own sake/there's a little American Revolution in everything we do."

The singer: Aggressive music requires an assaultive tone by the frontman. Yet I don't think I've ever heard a singer take the path Jim Teacher does. He attacks, for sure, but not in the time-honored K-ROCK fashion. Instead, he presents his narratives in a voice somewhere between a punk-rock Louis Armstrong and Tom Waits committing hari-kari. I don't know whether or not he gargles with ground glass, but Teacher's guttural ranting sounds positively painful. Did I imply I didn't like it? I love it. It makes the listener sit up and pay attention to the stories; it's ugly, fascinating, and it suits the songs and subject matter perfectly. Jesse Fuchs used to say that the trick to singing is to create a vocal sound that matches what you have to say. Jim Teacher has done that. If his performances make you think the Multi-Purpose Solution routed an articulate street crazy out of Washington Square Park, stuck him in front of the microphone, and let him do his thing, well, they've probably made their point.

The band: The guitars scrawl and stutter while the rhythm section sticks to the basics. The bass guitar plays eighth notes on the roots, the drummer keeps four-on-the-floor, and the lead guitar shoots oscillating sixteenth-note patters through the fog like signal flashes. Cymbals: big, splashy, and frequent.

The songs
: Unusual; songs without a clear center but never without musical focus. Many of these compositions feint toward verse-chorus structure, but substitute tag lines for releases. Teacher's narratives don't move forward in even paces, and the music follows suit: guitarrist Brother Stephen likes to introduce musical themes and then develop them and frequently works with reoccurring patterns, but they don't always develop according to expectation. Multi-Purpose Solution songs build toward foci rather than resolutions -- toward moments of heightened intensity. Sometimes these happen at the intersection of a repeated line and a harmonic resolution, and sometimes they don't. My favorite: Teacher breaking from a black meditation on a woman's breasts to count, gruffly, from one to forty-eight.

What distinguishes this record from other records of its genre?: "Phagocyte", "scholastomy", "ontology", "trilobite": The MPs has got more ten-cent words than the last Decemberists record. The drunken, shambling intellectual is not an unusual figure in certain forms -- the blues, for instance, is loaded with them -- but there aren't many in indie rock. And there are even fewer musicians willing to follow down the thicket-filled paths Jim Teacher is determined to travel.

What's not so good?: I strenuously doubt that these drums were close-miked, but they still feel awfully separate from the rest of the group. They're either too quiet, or they hit with that "ping" so characteristic of Jersey rock production. The electric rhythm guitar and bass are often way too sludgy: they don't exactly melt into each other, they're just occasionally diffuse. The MPs is a long album -- fourteen tracks, many of which break the four-minute mark -- so a little arrangement variation would also have been useful. Hey, I'm not asking for calliopes and optigons, guys; a simple acoustic track would probably have sufficed.

Recommended?: Is there any doubt? Could I hear a stanza like "last night, everything sixty-nined/last night, all the vegans stepped in line/and I was not unkind" and not want to share that with the rest of the world?

Where can I get a copy/hear more?: Alas, the Multi-Purpose Solution no longer exists. The group called it quits in autumn 2003, and North Jersey lost one of their most interesting and unique projects. The website is still up, though, and you can download several of these songs (plus a surprising number of remixes) right here. Drop them a line at your own risk. 

1 comment:

  1. Below we will let you know about the criteria we use to select out} the top 10 on-line casinos Korean gamers can gamble. Although there are no formally certified internet casinos in Korea, local gamers can discover plenty of websites operating abroad. Even within the largest, South Korean on line casino, on-line variations of its slots and games aren't available. But when it comes to of|in relation to} offline and on-line gambling, the Korean government holds 카지노사이트 a strict policy to mitigate habit.