Triclops! – Secret 93
Obama’s election aside, all available signs indicate that we’re already neck deep in some pretty bad times in America, and I think that’s part of why I’ve found myself listening to Triclops!‘s Out of Africa quite a bit this year. Bad times call for heavy, feel-bad music to keep the blood boiling as things fall apart, and the band’s first full length release is a slab of acid punk that definitely delivers, fusing a wandering critical lyricism to compositions that draw from a broad array of post-hardcore, prog, metal and experimental rock sounds.
Triclops! started in 2005, when vocalist John No from Oakland’s Fleshies) and guitarist Christian Eric Beaulieu of San Francisco’s Bottles and Skulls got together to experiment with some of the heavy, spaced-out sounds they hadn’t explored in other bands. Eventually the duo recruited drummer Phil Becker (Lower Forty-Eight) and bassist Larry Boothroyd (Victims Family), a rhythm section who impressively hold down the varied tempos and left-turns demanded from the songs on Out of Africa, released in March on Alternative Tentacles.
Those songs often begin in near-silence before building into frenzied twisting rock reminiscent at times of The Melvins, The Jesus Lizard and early Butthole Surfers. Beaulieu’s guitar is frequently the key, as on “Cassava,” where he veers between tense repetitive strumming and some great pedal-driven riffs. When the band’s racket succeeds, and this is the case much more often than not, it completely envelops and smothers. “Iraqi Curator,” a song about the devastation of the US invasion shifts between angry stomping verses and hazy atmospheric breakdowns, held together by a precise intense performance. There’s also a melodic sensibility that periodically submerges within the band’s songwriting. Tracks like album opener “March of the Half-Babies” and the consumption indictment “Freedom Tickler” are incredibly catchy with a downright anthemic quality.
Alternately on top of, or buried within, this controlled chaos lie No’s vocals, often delivered through effects that require the listener to head to the lyrics sheet. While the vocal treatment often adds to the heady feel, the speak-sung story of being lost and losing it on “Secret 93” demonstrates that the effects aren’t necessary to create intensity. The subject matter alone is plenty intense, with critiques of conspicuous consumption and the violence of imperialism recurring throughout the CD.
But is there any hope? The narrator of “Lovesong for the Botfly” expresses an admiration for the insect’s natural process for development and envies the fact that it doesn’t need love to survive. Meanwhile, in “March of the Half-Babies,” it seems like the narrator hires a (possibly drug-induced) ghost to fight his “biological imperative” by punching him in the face. There’s not much room for optimism here, but in times this rough, this warped blend of psych noise and punk rock really hits the spot.
Or, as No says in “Iraqi Curator”: So how you like them apples?
Triclops! will be performing at the Great American Music Hall on Sunday, November 30th with Hanson Brothers (featuring members of NoMeansNo) and The Bar Feeders. The show starts at 8pm and is $14 advance/$16 door.
– Listen to Triclops! on Alternative Tentacles’ podcast
– Purchase Out of Africa from AlternativeTentacles.com and on iTunes
– View a video for “Lovesong For The Botfly”