Review Summary: Tightly wound chaos.
Ironically, for all the no wave skronk to be found on this album The Plot to Blow Up the Eiffel Tower made a lot of waves in their time. Bringing a furious performance to match their music, the stage antics of Brandon Welchez are well documented. The band sounds loud and hard on the album, and in person they sound louder and harder. When you left one of their shows you were bruised and bleeding from the ears. And, if you’re a fan of hardcore punk that’s not afraid to shake things up, you probably had the time of your life.
Their 2003 release Dissertation, Honey
is a very divisive album. Most people either love it or hate it, and while I am most definitely one of the former I can see how some people would not enjoy this. Part of this depends on the listener of course. If a punk/jazz mashup doesn’t sound appealing to you, chances are Dissertation, Honey
is not going to change your mind. However, if you’re a fan of post-hardcore and not against a little experimentation this album could be just what you’re looking for. Perhaps.
If you can get past the initial hurdle of “Punk? Jazz? Together?! Madness!” you still may not like this album. The most common complaint against the band is their harsh, often jarring juxtaposition of the two styles. And while this is true to a certain extent, it’s not due to a lack of ability or poor song structure. Listen closely and you’ll see that a lot of attention has been paid to how the album plays out, threads that link the songs, which proves there is a method to the madness. One example would be the sequencing of tracks 4 and 5. The aptly named “Funeral Procession” is a mournful dirge that sets the tone for the next piece. “For Marcus” is a hair raising song about the suicide of Marcus Wayman. A somber trumpet solo partway through the song harks back to the previous song, before Welchez’s caustic lament “now it’s all over there’s no regrets” burns out the song. Elsewhere is “Attached To The Hip”, a biting commentary on the shallow contests of one-upmanship that occur in middle class suburban America. It ends with some instrumental smooth jazz, stuff the “bourgeoisie” preoccupied with keeping up with the Joneses mentioned in the song would listen to.
However all this analysis is thrown out the window when you’re actually listening to this album. The band may trip you up with their free jazz tendencies, but when they settle into a groove they straight up rock. Much is owed to the bassist Willy Graves (RIP). Whether he’s giving “One Stab Deserves Another” its funky edge or single handedly holding up “Circuits” with his thick lines, he does an awesome job. And of course there’s the frontman Welchez. His frantic cries on “Sometimes I’d Wish I’d Lost A Leg” are so downright infectious, you’ll find yourself singing along unconsciously, screaming “now my hand’s in the hive” in your car and getting strange looks from passersby. Or maybe that’s just me.
So yes, Dissertation, Honey
may not be an easy listen. It’s post-hardcore that owes more to John Zorn’s Naked City
than Nation of Ulysses. It’s about half an hour’s worth of dissonant riffs bookended by spoken word pieces by Beat poet Kailani Amerson. But dissonance is this band’s strong suit. This is a band that managed to win San Diego’s Best Punk Act 2 years running, and at the same time get banned from Baltimore for their shenanigans on stage. So while you may not be able to experience their unique form of aural chaos in person anymore, you can always throw on this album whenever you’re in the mood for some great punk rock.