Reviews of stuff I bought last Tuesday pt. II

tUnE-yArDs w h o k i l l
Both henceforth referred to as, respectively, Tuneyards and Whokill for convenience.

This album gives me pause. It is clearly good. It is clearly innovative and expressive and powerful and neato. But I have no idea what the hell any of it means. This is a work of restless genius, but it begs to be listened to almost more as an assertion of its own brilliant novelty than for any motivation that conventionally compels human beings to listen to music.

There's the blaringly awesome Gangsta, which herds Solex, Lily Allen, and M.I.A. into an inconsistently lit alley, takes their lunch money, and kicks the shit out of them for no other reason than that's just what happens when it gets out of bed.

Naturally, it's followed by the beautiful Powa, which is sweet (like a lullaby) and leads into sweet (like bad-ass). Merrill Garbus gots pipes, and she uses them here like they were both the fishnet stockings that caught your eye and the broken bottle used to demonstrate why you shouldn't stare.

Later, Bizness rips like you somehow already forgot about Gangsta. It's aggressive in its reach, but it feels merely assertive because you don't doubt that it gets what it wants.
You Yes You sets up with Garbus doing her thing, but then she yelps "What's that about? What's that about?" like a scalded Mark E. Smith.

As we start moving towards the wrap-up, Wooly Wolly Gong invokes the same spiraling introspection that made DJ Shadow's Endtroducing so powerful and with similar results. A circular guitar and a plainly affected drumbeat provide the bed over which Garbus croons sounds that evince both hope and dread independent of the word-vessels that contain them. Also, a truck drives by. You will look out your window for the offender, but no, it's just something there to fuck with headphones wearers.

The album closes on Killa, the feel-good not-a-single of the barbecue season. It sums up the album rather nicely. There are bits where a singular Garbus informs you of this and/or that, and intermingled are bits where multiple Garbi wrestle each other for the honor of exclaiming something you will never understand on the first several tries.

But there is something alienating about this album that keeps it from seeming more enjoyable to me. Is it the willful inconsistency? The chasing ideas back out from the rabbit hole?

The best I can come up with is to out myself as something of a sexist. I could use all the same hyperbole and praise I used for Ms. Garbus to describe a Dan Deacon record, except that I'm somehow all for that. The two aren't really stylistically similar, but they do share a similar grating-as-fuck-when-you're-not-in-the-mood quality. But I think I perhaps find a more satisfying logic in how a guy putters with deconstruction than a lady. Maybe?

Whokill is more than just a deconstruction though. Through all of its myriad filters and edits, it is a pop record (somehow) when all is said and done, and a damn good one.


UPDATE: Technically 10/24/12, though I've been meaning to add this for months. Maybe after the implosion of indie/college rock, I'd fallen out of the habit of challenging my tastes? I don't know. I no longer question this record or Garbus. It's just plain great.

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