Review Summary: You may not remember me, but bet your last fucking dollar I remember you
There’s so much
to be said for music that turns other people’s righteous anger into something inspiring and inclusive. Everyone has their own reasons for tuning into whatever shite they tune into, but I’d like to imagine that the kind of transformative power that plucks acute feelings out of generalised circumstances and ushers you into other people’s spheres of being is a fairly consistent appeal for whomever you ask. Case in point: Petrol Girls’ incendiary response this year to the rape and murder of Sarah Everard at the hands of a serving British police officer (“Violent By Design”) was an instant transformation of a headline I’d previously curled my lip at from a privileged distance into an unforgettable imprint of fear and rage. It’s obviously not the same as directly sharing in or suffering from the cause of those expressions, but being offered an opportunity to identify with them so viscerally is still deeply valuable. How much more meaningful is catharsis when it taps into a little empathy?
If Oklahoma noise rock/sludge four-piece Chat Pile are speaking from the very different standpoint of four American dudes disgusted at the state of their country, then they’re no less remarkable for the hideous clarity with which they open their perspective. On their long-anticipated debut LP God’s Country
, the foursome are pissed as all hell at any combination of: the soulless commodification of human labour, wealth inequality and homelessness, and the opiated misanthropic stew that stands as an apparent lowest common denominator as we sit in our ruts awaiting the inevitable end of the shit-ridden carbon-fucked fucking world. It’s profane and unsettling and all the more remarkable for how it turns the kind of bitterly antisocial material you’d ordinarily associate with solipsistic breakdowns into an open-hearted gob of spit that dissolves calcified apathy faster than the roughest stomach acid, opening a space for solidarity in filth. This goes for the whole package - even its moments of humour (see: title, entirety of closer’s lyrics) are so caustic that any levity they add is immediately rendered toxic. Such gestures may come with a nod and wink (And you, I hope they put a fucking curse on your name
), but there’s a shared understanding at all points that, man, it feels good to let that shit out at points.
Why is any of this remotely appealing? It comes down to frontman Raygun Busch (sic). The man’s performance is unhinged as the plague, and there’s such a pressing sense of the here-and-now in his delivery that it’s a struggle not to visualise row upon row of all-American dustbins and stragglers respectively burning and starving in realtime behind his apoplectic sermons. Contrast this with noise rock’s long reputation of all but paralleling performance art: it’s easy to view the likes of David Yow and Eugene Robinson as Artaudian actors whose power to shock and invigorate depends in large part in immersing their audience into their twisted fictions. Busch has much in common with the contorted delivery of both, but the venom in his performance doesn’t draw on the same kind of suspension of disbelief. His anger is so first-person and so materially directed that we are given little choice but to take it at face value: both the record’s horror and its humanity are anchored in the resultant connection.
The rest of the band are hardly less outstanding with their blood-curdling blend of noise rock with the guillotine-funk of nu-metal (“Tropical Beaches, Inc.”) and a generous
measure of sludge (“Why”), but these arrangements derive the bulk of their power from the soapbox they erect for Busch’s saliva-flecked brimstonings. Chat Pile’s service to the song is never less than ruthlessly thorough, even in the sprawling closer “grimace_smoking_weed.jpeg”. This track in particular bears unpacking: it kicks off with what could easily be the most unapologetically brutal song-unit Chat Pile have ever laid down, only to drag the hallucinatory visitation of its demonic subject matter through an extended gauntlet of feedback and neurotic outbursts. It doesn’t let up until the nine-minute mark (an unprecedented feat for this typically succinct band), and by the time it’s over I get the sense that we should all be feeling like excrement. Feels good. Chat Pile don’t indulge the luxury of listener distance - either you open yourself to their torrent of disgust, or you pack it up and keep your preciousness to yourself. Even for those sick of American doomspeak in all its wearisome omnipresence, God’s Country
is a sordid treat. It’s too personably grounded and idiosyncratically voiced to be mistaken for anyone else’s recycled diatribe; it punches up tenaciously every step of the way; it’s ready for the end of days, and it hates itself for this with a vengeance. What’s the appeal
? It’s bloody wonderful.