Monday, April 18, 2011

The Body: "We aren't just some metal band, we make ART!"

About a week ago, Brooklyn Vegan got all hot and bothered about an upcoming show by Providence's The Body. They plan to perform their debut album in full, backed by a full choir, for a seated audience, at a self-described "multimedia art cabaret." Does this strike anyone else as the ultimate in prog-rocker bullshit?

Bombastic as it is to work with a live choir/orchestra/whatever, I'm sure some bands could pull it off. Maybe Emperor? The Body, however, is not one of them. Indeed, these guys are pretty much the ultimate emperor-has-no-clothes band. Their songs aren't "monolithic," unless we are talking about a monolith of pure suck. They repeat dumbed-down sludge riffs ad infinitum in hopes that with each new repetition, they gain profundity... They are mistaken. I don't mind listening to the same part for minutes on end, it just better be a cool one. This is the kind of songwriting that impresses people who have never heard a metal riff before. It's sure to amaze NPR commentators.

The Body take that soporific songwriting, throw it over some appropriately ponderous drumming, and slather it in tons of exciting "extras." These include totally innovative original artistic things like: samples of people quoting lines of well-known Romantic poetry, ominous piano, weird scary voices, hissing ambient noises, etc. In short, everything that has ever been used as stupid filler in between tracks on a metal album. Except it's this album's central gimmick.

The choir is just another part of this mess, another part of the busy mix, another empty signifier of "artistic depth" or some bullshit. It's not as if the choral lines add a new dimension of melody, or even do anything particularly interesting as harmonies--they're either simple repeated phrases, as inane as the riffs, or dissonant scary chords just hanging out. The choir is there to be a choir, to remind you that The Body are the kind of band who use choirs.

The people who defend this band like to say "I know it can't hold your attention on headphones, but you have to experience it live! It's soooo loud!" Heavy is not the same thing as loud. Heavy comes from the notes you play and the way you play them. I can put some Iron Maiden on laptop speakers and it's still a whole hell of a lot heavier than this degenerate garbage.

Too often, people cry "pretentious!" to dismiss music for being heartfelt, imaginative, or genuinely ambitious. This is a horrible misuse of the word... Pretension isn't about doing something that makes cool people uncomfortable, it's about pretending, putting on airs, trying to be something that you're not. If The Body aren't pretentious as all get out, the word has no meaning.

They really do have a great guitar tone, I just wish they'd write some metal with it.


  1. Instead of complexity, hipsters prefer it when the illusion of complexity is created by stacking a lot of simple things on top of each other.

    To paraphrase something I saw on a noise forum once: If you stack 10 porn samples on top of each other and sell that as a CD, it's just degenerate trash. But if you stack 100 porn samples on top of each other, then it's transgressive art.

  2. haaaa so true. of course, you also have to put an "industrial" beat under it and run everything through a distortion pedal. voila!

  3. And there you go, you've made every power electronics song.

  4. Also I'm not sure if I'm a hypocrite for thinking these guys are dumb but liking Monarch. But at the same time, Monarch are French, so they're naturally More Artistic.

  5. Brooklyn Vegan is terrible.

  6. Word. they are actively making metal worse.

  7. LOL, I didn't even notice that was the site this shit was from. Brooklyn Vegan? Pavel, I know you live in New York and the pickings for reading are slim, but are you sure a dick hasn't accidentally made its way into your mouth recently?

  8. i mean we are all massive homosexuals here... but seriously, it's an (inadvertently) hilarious read! i want to do a post that's a Mad Libs version of a BV concert writeup.

  9. First of all, that video was epic! You had me for a moment thinking that it was part of their performance.

    I agree with several aspects of what the article expressed: With this live performance, the tail seems to be wagging the dog.

    It's usually mixed results at best when you've got a bunch of degenerate Metalheads conducting an orchestra or in this case, a choir. Not that they should be disallowed as a rule, but whether it's The Body or it's Emperor or my beloved Celtic Frost, these guys are mostly self-taught musicians to begin with.

    I don't mean this as an insult, but projects like this are, to some degree, like giving $2,000 in oil paints to a fifth grade art class - expecting them to render brilliant musical compositions is unreasonable.

    To me, the pretentiousness would only lie a situation where they couldn't openly admit that in some way.

    As far as criticisms leveled at BV... Personally, I look at their intended purpose before judging them. They exist far more as a promotional device - not a mechanism of unbiased, reasoned critique. Again, that's fine with me if we're all being honest about it. BV is a commercial enterprise. They take money from advertisers who are paying customers so the fact is that they are not going to shit on anyone too much. ...that's what blogs like Trial By Ordeal are for.

    Again, if they were in a continued state of denial about any of this or genuinely see themselves as being "kvlt" then it's just silly. And isn't "kvlt" another word for "hipster" anyways?

    As a casual observer, BV seem to do a reasonable job of balancing it all out: staying centered around a fairly respectable target area of Metal an and still connecting with a broader audience - so this is where I'd disagree that they are "making metal worse".

    It's very simple: these sorts of promotional mechanisms are in fact VITAL to having a thriving Metal scene. It's unreasonable to expect that the music as a whole would thrive without them. I could easily live without things like Revolver magazine and that sort of schlock, but bands like Emperor are NOT going to be able to sustain the movement as a whole.

    I'm every bit as cynical as you guys are and would go as far as to say that I'd probably wipe out 95% of the Metal bands out there if it were up to me. We'd probably allow different bands to survive this hypothetical armageddon, but there wouldn't be enough infrastructure to sustain what's left.

    That's where BV and certain others come in: What makes it a real challenge for them is to actually "show up for work" every day and also retain that balance between "art" and business. It's easy to criticize, but quite difficult to actually step up and make it happen.

    ...but I digress.

    As far as The Body goes, I was lukewarm on their previous efforts but think the first three songs on that collab we reviewed on TBR are fairly decent. DAMN that fourth one was AWFUL!

    Tt will be interesting to see how long they can sustain people's interest in NYC with their new dog and pony show. Actually, no. We all know how THAT will end: In addition to being "massive homosexuals", New York "hipsters" have the attention span of your average Ritalin kid. Good luck to anyone who tries to stay afloat in THAT shark tank for long!

  10. That body are a great band, and it is true that you have to see them live. They are not only loud, but gut rumblingly heavy. They are an experience to see.