Saturday, June 13, 2009

Napalm Death—Time Waits for No Slave (Century Media)

Is life bumming you out these days? Yeah, me too. There's so much unwarranted hysteria, and it grinds me down. Families are “fighting to survive” in these tough economic times (known as TET in our house). Swine flu is back—I remember it from the ‘70s, and barely anyone died back then either. Poverty and disease now lurk in the middle-class chamber of horrors, joining the child molesters, junkies, and terrorists. I often think we live in a culture of narcissism and sloth, but really we live in a culture of fear.

This week, MP Lisa Raitt was forced to publicly apologize for describing (in a private conversation that was accidentally taped and left with a reporter by her idiot assistant) the shortage of radioisotopes as a “sexy” issue. “How dare she!” roared her rivals and the populace in general. Yes, shock, horror, etc. Honestly, are we so eager to be outraged that we can whip ourselves into a frenzy over the fact that a politician uses the jargon of a PR hack? That an MP might view an issue in terms of how it might affect her public profile?

Anyway, Lisa Raitt bowed to demands and apologized for her slightly tacky statements. You might as well ask a tiger to apologize for having stripes. Meanwhile, her party (and this is on the public record) cuts funding to the arts and strips our culture to the bone, and no one has to say they’re sorry.

I’ve been listening to this album all week.

Napalm Death—Time Waits for No Slave (Century Media)
First-time reviewer, long-time fan here. Napalm Death have been on a streak since The Code is Red...Long Live the Code and Smear Campaign, and this new album is another laser-guided missile plowing straight through injustice and ignorance. Napalm Death have never been afraid to try new styles, so long as said style meets their strident criteria. From setting the template for grindcore with Scum and From Enslavement to Obliteration (my first encounter with ND, picked up on vinyl during my NME reading days), to adopting death metal with Harmony Corruption, to adding some Swans and Voivod-style dissonance around Fear Emptiness Despair, to developing their rapid-fire groove style from the mid to late ‘90s, to having their asses kicked by Nasum and reapplying themselves to grind in the new millennium, it’s all been grist for the Napalm juggernaut. Working with Russ Russell at Foel Studios again, on Time Waits... they’ve thrown all these elements into the grinder and the resulting goop is corrosively compelling. They’ve honed their songwriting into three or four minute assaults of blastbeats, Celtic Frost breakdowns, old-school hardcore and crust riffs, and (most importantly) simple rock 'n’ roll catchiness. It’s a joy to hear Barney Greenway tearing into the choruses on “Life and Limb” and “Fallacy Dominion.” If his slogans are rather cryptic (“Prevention is better than a cure, however obvious or obscure”) their delivery is certainly memorable. Amazing songs abound—the opening cyclone of “Strong Arm,” the seamlessly switching grooves of “Diktat,” and the title track. There’s even what sounds like an unholy outbreak of black metal in “Work to Rule.” The key to Napalm Death’s fury is Danny Herrera’s blastbeats, which have a singularly panicky, chaotic quality. Some drummers play them too cleanly, with an anti-musical athleticism. Herrera’s blasts sound ragged and truly fucking fast, adding a dynamic element to the song where they set the stage for when the pace shifts down, and the band slots in an even heavier part. The effect is like letting off tear gas into an unruly mob—the crowd parts temporarily, mustering a greater fury for its next act. No other band can create that kind of rush. The other half of Napalm’s American contingent, guitarist Mitch Harris, has thrived since Jesse Pintado’s departure (from the band and from this mortal plane), offering a massive collection of devastating riffs. I can’t guess where they all might come from, but it’s obvious he’s working his ass off to hold his side of the Napalm sound together. He even gets to squeeze off a bendy solo on “A No-Sided Argument." Napalm Death are the soundtrack for lives and minds in anarchy, remaining volatile and vital as ever as they approach their fourth decade.