The Rhode Island School of Design must be one fucked up place. Graduating members include Seth MacFarlane creator of Family Guy, Gus Van Sant director of the movie Elephant a film based around a school shooting and the tour de force the ‘70s Alt. Rock collective the Talking Heads. While all of these members of the college were responsible for creating unique and challenging art, perhaps two men stand out from the rest of the RISD graduates; Brian Chippendale and Brian Gibson the founders and only two members of the noise rock group, Lightning Bolt.
Lightning Bolt originally had three members, the two Brians and vocalist Hisham Bharoocha. After Bharoocha left the group Chippendale took over on vocal duties. The group seemed to be on the edge of breaking up only releasing a few Eps and singles, until finally they released Ride the Skies which was met with much acclaim. But Wonderful Rainbow is the release that really put Lightning Bolt on the map of noise-rock.
Wonderful Rainbow starts off with a brief intro of seemingly peaceful noises. Lasting for little under a minute “Hello Morning” does not give any hints about what kind of music the listener has gotten themselves involved with. “Assassins” is probably Lightning Bolt’s most “catchy” song, it has a perfect balance between noise and melody that will be seen throughout the album but “Assassins” does not dive into any huge endless pits of white noise or distorted vocals. It’s a pretty straightforward song in Lightning Bolt terms. “Dracula Mountain” starts off with Chippendale on vocals, it seems as if he is trying to vocally imitate Gibson’s guitar noises which is actually pretty funny. One of the longer tracks on the album “Dracula Mountain” does get a tad repetitive until around 2:45 when it breaks into a vocal and high-end bass solo. With a tapping of a cymbal the song bursts into something completely different and extremely heavy. Imagine this as a breakdown from a hardcore song only translated into noise, it’s a brilliant interlude and gives this otherwise bland song a original twist. Working the interlude riff into all hell the song ends in a release of fury.
“Two Towers” is the longest track on the album, the only way to describe it’s sound is to say it sounds like a fight between Sesame Street and Silence of The Lambs. It has a bright happy melody that is often challenged with low notes from Gibson’s bass. The happy melody eventually melts away into the heaviness for about 2 minutes. Gibson and Chippendale turn their instruments into boxers and throw endless punches throughout the middle of this song. All are equally similar and all are as brutal as the last. Eventually in the middle Gibson breaks out of the mold and starts throwing some high notes into his riff and lifting the song out of the darkness it had fallen in, then everything speeds up and we return to the Elmo vs. Dr. Lecter routine.
“On Fire” is a more vocally centered song then the rest of the album and it’s one where Chippendale’s talents really show. His drumming is ferocious yet contained while Gibson is trying to re-enact some guitar solo he probably heard on a classical rock album. The end result is ridiculous but much different from the previous tracks. The interludes in the middle of the song are especially interesting, especially on Chippendale’s end. “On Fire” eventually breaks apart due to it’s own madness. “Crown of Storms” is the first chance we see some of Gibson’s ridiculous tapping skills, starting off with a beautiful melody that if not doused with so many effects could be seen in a jazz song. The song then descends into a heavy hitting bass drum bass exchange that is similar to the intro of “Take Me Out” by Franz Ferdinand. Eventually the tapping melody and this “bass drum duet” clash and meld into one part of the song. The end of “Crown of Storms” is my favorite conculsion on the album as it ends with a harmonic and lowend beauty that is hard to rival.
“Long Stockings” is the one throw away track on this album. While it’s interesting it just doesn’t rival the power and aggressiveness the rest of the album possesses and feels out of place. While it may just be Lightning Bolt trying to slow down the mood of the album it’s a filler track and in my opinion should’ve not been on the album. “Wonderful Rainbow” on the other hand is a slow song done right, it really shows that if Lightning Bolt wanted too they could create some pretty beautiful music, but it’s a short song and really is just a set up for the explosion of “30,000 Monkeys”.
“30,000 Monkeys” is my personal favorite track, an mixture of off the wall jazz and making as much noise as possible it is a crazy, wild song that represents Lightning Bolt’s vision of music perfectly. When the song finally drifts out of the craziness at about 1:15 the song bursts into a bass solo by Gibson that is extremely technical. After the drums slowly build up the song once again descends into noise heaven.
The closer of Wonderful Rainbow is “Duel in the Deep” which to my knowledge is the first time Gibson uses the slapping technique on his bass. The rest of the song doesn’t really build up or anything, it’s just some random noodling. But the song ends in perfect feedback and Gibson once again returning to the slapping technique.
Wonderful Rainbow is the musical equilvent of a heavy night of drinking. It’s great while it lasts, but when it’s over you’ve got a splitting headache and you feel like you just got hit by a tractor-trailer. Lightning Bolt does away with everything relating to typical musical standards and creates an ear-splitting, bone-crushing, yet beautifully composed noise rock album.