O-Type
Darling


4.5
superb

Review

by turnip90210 USER (86 Reviews)
June 21st, 2022 | 7 replies


Release Date: 1988 | Tracklist


Bruce Anderson, the guitarist of MX-80 Sound, has died.

I've been largely spared by death in my surroundings so far. My grandfather quickly succumbed to cancer over a decade ago, and that's about it. No prior musical deaths left much of an impression either, with the deceased usually deep into retirement. Meanwhile, there's a video of Bruce sitting in the studio with the rest of the band, nodding along to a mix of a new MX-80 Sound album weeks before his passing. An extensive retrospective article from a few years back shed some light on the man's health, but this wasn't my frail bedridden grandpa in pyjamas.

The band opted to celebrate his life by digitally releasing a backlog of side projects from the 80s and 90s, previously only available via CD-Rs from an antiquated online store not even linked from their official page. The process of listening to these is not unlike going up to the attic and finding assorted forgotten possessions once belonging to the deceased. The various Gizzards albums are kind of like coming across old polaroids of jokey country bar gigs the world forgot about. The collected efforts let MX-80 Sound cherrypick the finest material for their phenomenal 1995 record, and it's easy to see now how it ended up as good as it did - the instrumentalists had a decade of various tinkering to source from. I've Seen Enough is only second to the debut in terms of the band's discography, and it's fascinating to listen to the material that led up to it. However, one album from the era is notably absent in terms of representation, not for lack of quality.

Darling is a wildly uncomfortable record, not unlike being approached by an unstable homeless person in the shopping mall parking lot. The miserable subject matter on display can't help but make you feel a bit sorry, but at the same time the rough vocal delivery and clattering rock-adjacent musical backdrop falling apart in real time can't help but make you want to get as far away as possible. "Stupido" is a masterful display of this with O-Type at their most Beefheartian and disturbing, and just as you've had enough the nonsense escalates into full on howling about puffers and Taco Bell as if you shoved the accoster aside and tried to make a run for it. The record only reaches similar fourth wall shattering heights with "Deliverance", but other songs still dwell in a similar discomfort until the much needed catharsis of the closer rolls around.

There is ultimately method to the madness, in fact quite a lot of it for the most part. "Deliverance" is a good midpoint song to digest what is happening, and paying attention to the loose arrangement reveals the bass, drums and rhythm guitar all to be operating on similar wavelengths, just not fully in synch, sliding around each other with a bit of a hazy, improvisational quality. The lead guitar is having none of it though, and delivers a disjointed, dissonant line that seems to amp up the chaos in the rhythm section. Things come more unglued once the rhythm guitar decides it's not content providing chords and starts exploring melodies as well, leading to a fever dream asynchronous twin solo experience. Bruce Anderson and Jim Hrabetin always had an interesting guitar hive mind, and Darling has plenty of moments of them finding their chemistry. The bass is stuck manning the foundation when others are off gallivanting, even in "Stupido" it's providing a steady ostinato as everybody, drums included, goes off the deep end. It just so happens that the pattern is quite fixated on its oddball interval choices and doesn't really feel like a bass vamp. Every now and then the guitars park on a riff for longer and the bass gets to explore some melodic fills ("Winterthern").

An unlikely upside of Darling comes from the vocals. Anderson seems to be manning the mic out of necessity rather than choice, his vocal lines somewhat minimal and redundant (compare "People Got Rights" to "Alright, O.K."). However, they play extremely well into the musical backdrop and help amplify the desolate vibe. The two mid-album cuts become highlights based on the tales he weaves. "Darling" sports a constant tension in the rhythm section due to the accents consciously displaced by an eighth note, and the lurching vibe is perpetuated by the guitars messing with various textures. The vocals cap this off with an unpleasant spoken word tale of nice guy awkwardness, entitlement and the shortcomings of escapism. "People Got Rights" is delivered from the perspective of a vagrant, and the limitations of the vocals actually turn into a strength here. Rhyming sad with mad and sneaking in homeless as the third complaint on the list channels a distraught state of rage where thinking straight is impossible. The instrumental is absolutely frigid, making blood-curdling MX-80 Sound tracks of everyday decay like "You Can't Kill a Laughing Man" or "Thank You Boss" sound chipper. The lead guitar does not get rhythmically unstable, but rather operates on the verge of feedback as it delivers occasional ear-piercing harmonic expansion to the already dissonant riffs.

This is about as weird as Anderson and company got while still delivering music not too abstracted to pass as rock, and the result is arguably the strongest release without Rich Stim involved. Darling gets to channel free jazz influences that were typically more restrained in MX-80 Sound. "Belly Up" starts with a solo over a punky two-chord riff. Said solo flubs the second note, loses all composure, overcorrects via an accidentally comical bend and proceeds to somehow throw the rest of the lead even harder before giving up mid phrase. I'd imagine the ability to make it through "Stupido" is pretty correlated with outlook on Trout Mask Replica. It will leave you feeling uneasy, but it's meant to.



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user ratings (1)
4.5
superb


Comments:Add a Comment 
MiloRuggles
Staff Reviewer
June 22nd 2022


2075 Comments


Big pos, nice review. Your descriptions of the music itself get me all riled up.

Never heard of any of these projects, will venture down the rabbit hole soon

parksungjoon
June 22nd 2022


44637 Comments


R.I.P. Bruce :[ posd

yea check mx80 sound m80

tfw this rev gets a milo comment but my last one never did



MiloRuggles
Staff Reviewer
June 22nd 2022


2075 Comments


I missed it! Will remedy stat

parksungjoon
June 22nd 2022


44637 Comments


bVmp

Cimnele
June 22nd 2022


2242 Comments


really nice review, will check, love that early mx-80 sound but havent checked anything besides yet

Digging: Yoo Doo Right - A Murmur, Boundless to the East

GhandhiLion
June 22nd 2022


15596 Comments


Oh shit rip

Digging: Stina Nordenstam - Memories of a Colour

SandwichBubble
June 23rd 2022


13312 Comments


Late again, but rest in peace.



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