Mis-file under AmRep.
The sadly defunct Amphetamine Reptile was one of those labels to achieve the distinction of becoming forever associated with a particular style of music. In it’s decade long run it became the Motown of fucked up noise rock bands. They seemed to have a hose pipe connected directly to the faucet that the likes of the Melvins, Cows, Helmet and their ilk gushed out of. If you don’t know this already I can only assume you’re not interested in the kind of record label that would include a band called Gay Witch Abortion amongst in roster. In which case we may never be friends. Anyway, ever since it disintegrated bands of a similar mind have been spraying out all over the place, but to this day you can’t hammer away a mid paced low-end heavy riff without someone coming along and slapping an AmRep tag on you.
Into this long lineage step Whores. (note the full stop. These boys End Sentences, which is how you know they Mean Business). They play that sort of sardonic, sludgey, bass heavy thud that the likes of the Jesus Lizard or Hammerhead would have been pleased with. Clean is their second release and their second 6 track mini album, which has led to criticism from some quarters for not getting a full album together yet. Personally I appreciate their decision – brevity is an underrated value when it comes to this kind of pummeling noise. And why in 2013 as physical formats anyone should be forced to obey the rules of the Album is beyond me – hell, if a 97 minute single track was the way they figured their sound would work best then why the hell shouldn’t they just go for it?
But also I suspect their choice has something to do with not yet being ready to commit themselves to a full album. You see, despite having a mighty fine line in noise rock bangers they seem to be in the midst of something of an identity crisis. What’s interesting about Clean is that tit’s the sound of a band fighting the urge to go full on Stoner Rock.
These two methods of riff warfare may seem a million miles apart but they’re a lot closer than you’d think. Take the Melvins, a band who have spent 30 years somehow straddling this divide. They’ve always had as much Sabbath in them as they have Black Flag, if not more so. All it takes is a switch of emphasis to jump between the two – blunt the edges of your sound and you’re a noisey hardcore band, apply some fuzz and you’re doing doomy stoner. Such are the fine lines the likes of Whores. trade in. And whilst Clean starts out hammering away with the bass taking the lead on the crushing Baby Bird and Last Looks, with vocalist/Guitarist Christian Lembach lashing out like man cornered by himself, it’s the kind of thing that might once have earned the delightful genre label, “pigfuck.” But midway through Cougars, Not Kittens something changes. The chorus features a a thick slice of Iommi worshipping riffery. There’s no mistaking it. Then toward the end as he bawls, “I HOPE THIS BREAKS YOUR HEART” over and over you can almost hear him simultaneously straining against the urge to go for a full on gurning heaven scraping solo. From hereon in the fuzz on those guitars become much more prevalent and those riffs start to sound more Man’s Ruin than AmRep. Photoshop their press photos with doped up red eyes, change the band name to Goatsmoke and tell everyone they’re from Sweden and no one would question it. It gets increasingly more blatant up until closer I Am An Amateur at Everything which smells more like weed than Sheffield city centre on a Saturday ( a niche reference I know – you’ll just have to trust me on this one). So much so that all you have to do is switch the chorus lyrics from “Burn my body/erase my name” to “Across the mountains/The demon calls” and you have something that would have fit neatly onto the sadly missed stonerrock.com’s mp3 jukebox.
What’s even weirder is the fact that the vocals do stay hardcore. When I first heard these guys I assumed they had a standalone singer, the only one who was staying on message while the rest of them stealthily blazed up behind his back. But instead it seems to be Lembach pulling in both directions at once. And what’s even weirder still is how well it works.
Pissed Jeans have made these kinds of hardcore songs of inadequacy, of male guilt and confusion, a pretty popular alternative to the breakdown heavy chestbeating ALL FOR TEH SCENE mainstream hardcore stuff, and it’s no great leap to say Whores. are a similar proposition in content if not sound. Though they don’t push their sarcastic humour front and centre like Pissed Jeans do they’re certainly plumbing the same depths. And though it might sound strange at first after a while a realisation dawns – what better sound than stoner to complement this sort of sarcastic self flagellation? Picture a red-eyed kid at 3am putting down the xbox pad, surveying is hot rock flecked, dorito dusted world and thinking, “fuck. FUCK! Fuck.” Anyone who has stared deep into the bleary, sad eyes staring back from the mirror and asked, “what the hell is wrong with me?” can empathise. And I dunno, maybe I’m a demographic of one in loving both AmRep bludgeoning and thick Kyuss tones equally, and combining them both makes no sense to anyone else. But it’s like peanut butter and chocolate to me – it sounds odd but feels so very right.
If/when they get around to making a full record I’m fascinated to say which half of this bizarre dichotomy wins out. Personally I’m happy for them to keep up the tension between the two and keep on serving up six song slices of excellence like this for as long as they can.