Wolf Eyes - Human Animal (Sub Pop CD)
At last (for me), Wolf Eyes' new album. Although I feel like I have to get into the ironies of that statement because as we all know (and as this very blog is wont to document), Wolf Eyes release a "new album" every other day. But like I've preached time and time again, the Wolf Eyes mode that appears on Sub Pop albums (the "rock" mode) is decidedly different from their long-form abstract noise approach often showcased on the self-released limited edition American Tapes CD-Rs and the like. And while that sound has its merits, there's nothing finer than Wolf Eyes' in true "band" format, laying down the kind of noise-as-pop-song strokes only hinted it at on major works by Throbbing Gristle, Lou Reed, Butthole Surfers, the Dead C, Sonic Youth, et al. Say what you will about them but Wolf Eyes' very brief but very prolific history belongs squarely in the midst with canonical artists of that ilk. If you don't believe me then check out their strongest argument to date by far and their second on Sub Pop, "Human Animal". Anybody can get together junky equipment and make a noise song but the level of composition behind the majority of these eight tracks is truly remarkable - and certainly not something you'd expect from three (or four, not discounting Aaron Dilloway who helped produce this one) guys decked out in denim and leather and overusing words like "totally" and "dude".
A lot of Wolf Eyes tunes featured the tried-and-true method of working from a slow, scraping build-up into an explosive fist-pumping melee. Well "Human Animal" as an album is laid out like that, which is a switch from the more song-oriented "Burned Mind". This much is evidenced on the first three tracks: "A Million Years", "Lake of Roaches" and "Rationed Rot". As they play you get the same excited/sinking feeling one would during the opening ascent of a massive rollercoaster ride. The opener features sparse, crunchy percussive blats like neon lights flickering incessantly and John Olson makes use of his sax to great effect (which was totally underused/inexistant on "Burned Mind" so I'm glad to see that's something that bled over from his Graveyards project). The track ends in a firestorm of screeching courtesy Nate Young and a shower of white-noise static like something straight out of Poltergeist before segueing into a high-pitched 2-minute electronics and synth excursion. Upon the arrival of the pounding drum intro of third cut "Rationed Rot", you know something big's gonna happen sooner or later - it can't be this quiet all the time. In addition to the lurking, sinister drums, more electronics whizz by the listener's ears and Young takes to the mic delivering the kind of ambivalent/buried narration not heard since "Desert of Glue" on 2002's "Dread". The song bends and twists for another six minutes or so before the bomb drops in the form of the title track - a rapturous, head-banging, fist-throwing, full-on Wolf Eyes anthem if there ever was one with Mike Connelly throwing out mangled guitar riffs and Young practically spitting blood in between the thick, rhythmic crushings courtesy all involved this time. "Rusted Mange" is no less furious as Young is still screaming and tripping over his words (but who knows what he's saying) while a pulsing machine-gun beat is pounded out, reminiscent of the Peter Brotzmann Octet album which took the weaponry as its moniker. It's certainly got the same level of overall passion and intensity involved. "Leper War" is a small respite from the onslaught but still gnaws at your gut via its pitch-shifting bassy backbone, electronic wash-out and more heavy squiggled bellowing from Olson's reeds. Last cut is the instant-classic current live staple "The Driller" which I've gushed about previously when it was heard on the 12" Sub Pop single backed by "Psychogeist". Speaking of new anthems, if there was ever a potential topper for "Stabbed in the Face", it's the "The Driller". Talk about the catchiest, gloomiest beat detonating in your face and singing your eyebrows as the band pile on every trick in their repertoire - guitars, electronics, synths, vocals and saxophone gelling together in a cacophonious near-symphony. If you got the CD version of "Human Animal", then your version is 2 minutes long with the addition of the hidden (!) track, an on-the-money cover (at first I had to ask myself if they were directly sampling the original song - I'm not convinced that they aren't) of hardcore group No Fucker's manifesto "Noise Not Music". As the song approaches its grand finale and Olson and Young are trading off screams, surely you must realize that this alone was worth the price of admission. But then just like that the roller coaster grinds to a halt and the brief (33 minute) ride is over...so you head to the back of the line to do it all over again. Totally classic stuff, and easily Wolf Eyes' crowning achievement to date. Whenever people dismiss Wolf Eyes as being "just noise", I'm baffled to the point of being angry. How can you not hear how well put-together these songs are? How could somebody listen to "Human Animal" and hear only noise...and not music?