DIE KREUZEN (TOUCH & GO
LP)-An album of unquestionable brilliance. Die Kreuzen clearly surpass
their devastating "Cows and Beer" EP and have come up with a heavy contender
for one of this year's best. The production is top notch (Corey Rusk) and
supports the ferocious heavy-gut sound of the band. The vocals are great
in that throttle-throat Dan Kubinski shouts and pleads through the material
as if his life depended upon it and maybe it does. Total commitment plus
all the right moves make this little jewel a mandatory must-have. Only
a dumb fuck would pass this by.
Attention all puny photocopy punk
bands: go fuck yourselves. This is it. The definitive American punk record.
There is more meat here than in fifty Vicious Rad Youth Tendency Aggression
Approach Anarchy GBH Attack Squad records. Give up. Go back to your junior
high typing class. Go home and have your yuppie parents microwave you a
kelp and tofu burrito for dinner. Sit in your well-appointed suburban bedrooms
decorated with all those rad spikey-haired photo idols. Listen to your
itsy-bitsy hardcore records. Nobody cares. I don't. Die Kreuzen don't.
I'll listen to this instead. All their greatest stuff, all sledgehammer
big, all original. Herman makes a guitar sound like a marmoset in a drillpress.
Danny makes his voice sound like a perforated muffler. This is so fucking
great (in Tim Yohannon's words) that all that horseshit that passes for
punk nowadays doesn't even upset me anymore. This exists too, and that's
DIE KREUZEN October File (Touch &
Go)-Begin with a psychedelic instrumental, single stabs of guitar cutting
through reminiscent of the Gang Of Four. But don't jump to a hasty conclusion-all
of a sudden your stream of consciousness is shattered by a haunting whine
vaguely akin to the howl of Robert Plant ("Man In The Trees"). Then it's
a thrash tempo with killer bass, but consistency remains via the howl ("Among
The Ruins, " "Conditioned"). Follow further: Hypnotic doom with a cool
pop hook ("Hide And Seek"), metal's answer to the Minutemen ("Hear And
Feel"), and acoustic American pop which will bring even your dead grey
matter back to life ("Cool Breeze"). Die Kreuzen is not hardcore, not metal,
not doomy British new wave or American pop music; they are all of these
things and they are none of them. They are destined for great things-someday
they may be as big as Metallica.
Two things amaze me. The first is
that the speed-metal hard-core groups who do the most to sound exactly
like everyone else enjoy the biggest slice of the genre's enormous new
popularity. (New York's biggest, greediest club gives its Saturday nights
to a group of largely below-drinking-age punks; at a recent show by rote
formalists Agnostic Front, you couldn't have fit a sheet of paper between
any two of 'em.) The second is the way nostalgic Anglophilia still obtains
in the Midwest. Spotting the late '70s English artpunk influences on middle-America
groups like Big Black (Killing Joke, Gang Of Four, Pop Group), Naked Raygun
(Buzzcocks), and Killdozer (The Fall) is like circling the hidden objects
in a Highlights for Children drawing. Sometimes the objects themselves
are more interesting than the whole drawing.
Die Kreuzen, a four-piece from Milwaukee, plays loud, aggressive music with flourishes of metallic guitar and occasional blinding tempos, but doesn't fit in with the speed-metal scene. Good speed-metal groups light all your bulbs at once with an ejaculatory burst of sound that's to big to take in, to dense to pull apart. Die Kreuzen's music is introverted and recognizably discrete. It's like a hole in a constant state of collapse, and its thrust comes from each of the musicians hammering in from the outside. Because of this difference, while everybody else is getting rich or at least paid, Die Kreuzen has a shitty little audience and probably can't afford soundproofing for its basement.
The hole that October File, Die Kreuzen's second and slowest album, tries to cave in on is singer (well, not really singer, maybe designated screecher is more like it) Dan Kubinski's throat. This is a deep hole, its walls lined with spikes and garbage. At the bottom, someone is slowly feeding the vocal chords' dick into a food processor. Kubinski's voice is the aural equivalent of dragon's breath. October File is an inarticulate, agonized howl from a distant abyss, bringing suffering and anger cut off from their causes. Around this guttural anguish, guitarist Brian Egeness beats chunky off-center riffs against weary, almost ironic three-second noodlings, and drummer Erik Tunison and bassist Keith Brammer grind asymmetrical rhythms through changes that defy foot tapping or even fist clenching. Die Kreuzen changes time signatures like most people change their underwear: often and gracelessly. You're just grateful if they leave you standing when they get to the other side. Musically, they avoid clichés and undermine their own tropisms with such intensity that even songs with titles like "Uncontrolled Passion" and "Among The Ruins" don't sound corny.
With it's primitivist experimentalism, this amazing punk artifact may be the best Wire record since Chairs Missing. It's as if Wire went Metallica instead of artswill. You've heard Kubinski's screech late at night when you feel bad but don't know why. Die Kreuzen doesn't try to explain or exorcise the pain. October File is more radical than that. It accepts it. What balls.
DIE KREUZEN, October File- When parody
and mockery of reason are indistinct from their chosen targets; when breaking
rules is an excuse for abiding with such; when the poetry of burning sidewalks
and telegraph poles are but blotches of scenery; that's when Die Kreuzen
(The Crosses) reach for their revolvers.
And while there's residue of song structures past in those 2.7 minute rushes, then that time draws closer still.
This idea of being one with the spandex brigade might be laudable if it stopped one from baulking-which is the intention of course. They'd rather freeze out both camps: the hordes by denial of stock imagery and armchair-ists by tending the furnace of their alloyed fears. Another good idea and one that, well versed in reverse psychology, will entice both those opposites to their hole. If only this were achieved a thousand ways other than returning full circle.
Alternative Record Charts....4. Die Kreuzen, October File-This Milwaukee quartet is one of America's most underrated punk bands, and perhaps the last doing anything meaningful from a thrash base. Sitting somewhere between speedcore and speed metal, Die Kreuzen avoids the cliched pitfalls of each, spitting out killer guitar riffs and changing tempos like nobody's business. There's a whole generation of musicians who grew up only listening to each other and therefore sounding exactly the same, but who really learned to play their instruments in the process. Die Kreuzen is expanding this discipline into some crunching rock and roll.
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