Since 1999's Human Jerky LP, San Diego's Cattle Decapitation have been exacting karmic payback for man's insatiable hunger for animal flesh in the form of slaughterhouse-grade gore-grind. Owing a debt to veteran extreme-metal bands like Carcass, Cattle Decapitation nonetheless carve out their own niche within the genre by emphasizing an anti-human, rather than pro-animal, message, and mixing up a visceral grind attack with ambient moments of sonic horror--including actual field recordings of doomed cows and pigs falling under the butcher's blade.
Karma.Bloody.Karma is a pure killfest--or killfeast--for the ears, a relentless harangue eviscerating humanity's arrogance and happy, shiny sense of aesthetics. "Total Gore" is perhaps the strongest track, since it boasts spasmodic, stomach-churning guitar riffs that sound like the body's nervous system collapsing, only to fall away, revealing the lip-smacking gusto of cannibals snacking on each other's limbs.
If there ever was a soundtrack of the world's end, Karma.Bloody.Karma is it.
Don't dismiss Cattle Decapitation as musically challenged, humorless misanthropes, however. The band offers plenty of jazz-worthy chops (see the pyrotechnical tempo changes of "Alone at the Landfill") and comedic prowess (check out the made-up Latinate phrase "Ardipithecus Ramidus Apocalypticus" in "Suspended in Coprolite"). Indeed, Karma.Bloody.Karma will keep you up late--thinking, laughing, headbanging.
On a quest to find the missing link between alt-country, grandiose 1970s prog-rock, classic pop and '80s punk? Aren't we all?
Look no further than this wonderful 10-year-old band from Denton, Texas. Centro-Matic makes shambling rock--informed equally by twang and distorted drone--that is both artfully ambiguous and delightfully tuneful.
Singer-songwriter and guitarist Will Johnson, whose hoarse tenor recalls the light airiness employed by Bill Nelson of British progsters Be Bop Deluxe, and his band explore unusual melodies and structures, as did many such '70s art-rock icons, on such otherwise rough-hewn tunes as "Calling Thermatico," "In Such Crooked Time" and "Monument Sails."
At the same time, Centro-Matic demonstrates an uncanny ability for creating offbeat but gloriously catchy melodies in the tradition of Husker Du, R.E.M. and the Jayhawks. The standout track "Patience for the Ride," with a bit of guitar fuzz and enigmatic bells leavening the pop, is one of the best songs that Uncle Tupelo's Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy never wrote.
Centro-Matic's unique sound has won the praises of such diverse musicians as Patterson Hood (Drive-By Truckers) and Ben Gibbard (Death Cab For Cutie, The Postal Service), but I am much chagrined, because I only learned about the group recently, after it had released several independent albums. Better late than never.
Centro-Matic will play Friday, Sept. 1--along with Dave Alvin, Steve Wynn, the Sidewinders and a couple dozen other acts--as part of Club Congress' three-day 21st anniversary bash. Doors open at 7 p.m. A three-day pass costs $25; nightly cover is $10.
Originally released in September 1991, the same month as Nirvana's Nevermind, Sebadoh III marked the point when Lou Barlow, Eric Gaffney and Jason Loewenstein truly became a band. Barlow had been writing and releasing home-recorded cassettes of his own material even when he was still bassist for Dinosaur Jr. a few years earlier. Then Barlow began tape-trading with Gaffney, and the duo released two cassettes together; but it was with III that the band settled into its anything-goes sense of musical schizophrenia.
Barlow was the sensitive one pining for the girl (the aw, shucks-pretty, acoustic "Truly Great Thing"), even as he was still working on his codependence issues with Dinosaur's J Mascis (album opener "The Freed Pig," a blueprint for early '90s lo-fi indie rock, serves as both an apology to, and admonition of, Mascis). Gaffney was prone to traditional song structures that delved into noisy, almost frightening excursions. ("Limb by Limb" and "As the World Dies ... " contain a fair amount of both, the latter especially disturbing.) New member Loewenstein favored meandering, jazzy odes to weed ("Smoke a Bowl") and backwoods country vamps ("Black Haired Gurl").
This reissue contains a remastered version of the original album, plus a bonus disc of largely heretofore unheard songs, the Gimme Indie Rock! EP, and alternate versions of album tracks; some of it's essential, some throwaway. As Barlow aptly puts it in the liner notes, "We were a strange band ... Sebadoh III expresses that like no other album we recorded ... "