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.