Friday, October 13, 2006

No go pop

D.I. Go Pop

To understand how iconoclastic, even willfully unpopular, Disco Inferno's D.I. Go Pop (Amazon: US, UK, eMusic) was, it helps to remember where commercial and "alternative" rock were in 1994. Only a few years after "punk broke" (uh, right) grunge sludge from Soundgarden to the Smashing Pumpkins still clung to key chart positions in the U.S. The U.K., meanwhile, was engrossed by petty (and totally boring in retrospect) popularity contests between Blur, which released Parklife that year, and Oasis (Definitely Maybe). You can weigh the various merits of grunge and Britpop, but safe to say, wild inventiveness wasn't one of either movements' key selling points. Disco Inferno is all wild inventiveness.

As a conceptual exercise (instruments hooked up to samplers), which the band explored on several earlier EPs and singles, Pop is a masterpiece. But unless you're prepared to hire earth-moving machines to cart away the layers of noise that bury rudimentary, usually bass-led, melodies, it isn't what you'd call pop. Pastiche via sampling wasn't a new art then, certainly not if you consider what had gone on in hip-hop and dance music, or even in rock (see Teenage Filmstars). And it definitely isn't now. But Pop's patchwork songs retain their freshness and immediacy. It helps that the band relied on a lot of organic sounds--pouring rain, trickling water, whistling wind, shouting voices. So much so that sometimes you can imagine this as an ecological manifesto, or a nature record in which nature gets its revenge. Imagine "Starbound: All Burnt Out and Nowhere To Go" with it's tribal style chants, incessant camera shutter clicks and cacophony of birds, as a safari during which the natives, animals and earth turn on the Western tourists, roasting them on spits, plucking out their eyes, burying them in mud. For all its alarm and crushing paranoia (and heat! it's the inferno in "disco inferno"), the song isn't without sly humor. Check out vocalist Ian Crause's last funny, strangled cry: Bye bye, Must fly!

Disco Inferno often gets lumped in with the post rock gang, which is unfortunate if post rock for you signifies nap coming on (me), and mostly inaccurate. As forward-looking as it is, it actually makes more sense as post punk. Pop borrows sounds, if not moods, from, among others, Art of Noise, later Wire, and yeah, Joy Division, and you get the sense Mark E. Smith vocal coached Crause's dry rants and proclamations. It's exciting stuff--enormously interesting, invigorating and even, I daresay, pleasurable.

Starbound: All Burnt Out and Nowhere To Go - Disco Inferno


Blogger Jon said...


I suspect that when I actually listen to the mp3 I won't like it half as much as I want to like it based on this fine post.

One like anything else you do... darn fun to read.

Have you thought about a career in sales?

7:06 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

Dunno about sales, but I was this close to going to law school.

I should have mentioned that this post was a contribution to the noise famine fund you set up last week. Can I go back to my sudden, uncharacteristic fascination with singer-songwriters now?

8:00 PM  
Blogger jon manyjars said...

Post rock = nap coming on? Hahaha, that was a good'un!

7:23 AM  

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