Nearly Reviewing Alt-J (And Black Dice, To Be Fair).

So there’s this moment, right? A moment where you’re trying to figure out what the hell it is that you’re going to say in yet another random blog post and you’ve been incessantly listening to this killer album that no one else seems to be glomming on to. Oh, sure, you’ve a friend or two whose head turned a bit when you played them a little bit, but your small multitude of internet friends don’t really seem to be clicking on the series of links that you so kindly keep offering up to them. (And, just to be fair, you can be a bit of a bitch about that, as you’re no doubt all too aware, always linking up shit that people don’t seem to click on…You know this, right? You’re well aware that people see that post and sigh to themselves and possibly even shout to another room, “He’s doing it again.” You’re fully aware of this, right?)

But, you’re thinking about writing and you’re listening to this album that just isn’t getting the attention it deserves. You are, in some ways, overpowered by it. As too often happens, you’re amazed that no one is hearing what’s happening here. There’s a Soul Coughing snare there, a Coldplay guitar riff, King Sunny Ade’s voice is right there, for fuck’s sake! This lovely, lyrical and melodic a cappella piece with some lyrics to firm a ghost; this tune with surprising change ups and harmonies somewhat reminiscent of good old Simon and tall Garfunkel, and this fuzz-wah bass droning in at incongruous moments letting you know that this band will not allow mere pop structure form this approach. “Listen,” it whispers, “and later you can sing along.”

Here’s the problem: you’ve not strayed far from Alt-J’s release An Awesome Wave for more than a bird fart since you got it. True, there was some time with some Sonic Youth and some toe-ing the water The Amazing; there was that nice night with Disco Inferno, even some good old Radar Bros. and an honest attempt to hit that Black Angels album, but Alt-J is your current heroin (which is an analgesic, friends; when the needle sits just right, man, you never feel the bite, man). You’ve got coffee and scotch metaphors tumbling in that urn of your admittedly occasional atonal brain.

But this album is not atonal. It’s not so far out as to not reach into some other cultured ears and hammer against that anvil in a tone that catches the unwary and makes them look at you with that unintentional sideways head cock and say, “What was that? That was nice,” but, again and again, it doesn’t happen. Have you alienated them with Bjork renditions of jazz classics in Icelandic? Too much of the new Swans? Maybe that Mike Patton screaming, “Fuck” for two minutes led some folks to just not trust you to music. Possibly, it could be that your idealism of posting music easily found being anathema, but that people really want to hear things that they’ve not known to search for being the better choice could really be a mistaken philosophy. It could be that Alt-J just suck as a band, but you just don’t buy that, not in the slightest.

One must never argue matters of taste. This is paramount. You’ve lived by this. Never once have you said that Beethoven is better than Bach. You’ve mentioned a preference for him before. You’ve said things more glowingly about dear Ludwig Van than our dear Johann. But, better? Gods, no. Just as Rachmaninov pulls your strings more soundly than Mr. Schubert, you never disallow either the genius you feel simmering behind their occasional timpani. So it is now with Alt-J and this sound that you almost want to call African traditionalism creeping through in accents and verses, seeping in through lyrics of questionable decency (“Tra-la-la, in your snatch fits pleasure, a broom shaped pleasure”) or of inherent violence (“She may contain the urge to run away, but hold her down with soggy clothes and breezeblocks”) or these moments of blurry beauty (“The nights of all my youth pressed into one glass of water”). Alt-J, you’re convinced, is no better than whatever anyone else is listening to, but, gods damn it all, it’s good; it’s compelling. You promise it is, if only someone would listen.

The problem here is compounded by the fact that you’re fickle. (What are you listening to now? In fact, it’s Pigs by the Black Dice over and over again.) You’re a junkie (and rather unashamed of it). You understand the “truth” of the “fact” that every person in this world “knows” without a shadow of a doubt to be the most important thing in the universe…and you “know” they’re right, absolutely and completely. The teen girl linking that song you hate with the fiery passion of a thousand distant suns was just as affected by it as you were by this Alt-J beast of beauty. “Allow her that,” you remind yourself, you egocentric bastard.

Ah, bitchings upon pain, you’re convinced this is the glory of something to come, that this band will ferret up some measure, but you know you’ve been wrong before. Err on the side of caution, then, and post a video of this illustrious band.
Don’t be afraid to love them. They have something to offer, you’re very nearly certain and continue to crow. “They’re really very good,” you keep telling people that you pray will condescend to listen.

Category(s): Blogroll, Music, Uncategorized

2 Responses to Nearly Reviewing Alt-J (And Black Dice, To Be Fair).

  1. I confess I haven’t clicked links of late. Not from lack of interest, but from lack of time. Lazy Saturday morning and I find your review has shown up in my feed. Two paragraphs in I started looking them up and had them playing in the background as I finished up. Then listened to the one you embedded. I give, I give, I’m sold. I’ll click the links next time. Really gorgeous.

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