I've let a little time pass since Moistworks posted a Chrome tune a few months ago. Since then Beware of the Blog has stepped in as well. While both pieces are excellent writing and I encourage you heartily to visit, neither touch on some of the things about Half Machine Lip Moves that got me thinking. Thinking, as in for a period of about 6 months, all other music was boring because it wasn't Chrome. Yes, I had a problem, but I suspect it's a problem you want as well.
I've always thought Jim DeRogatis paid Los Lobos the highest of all possible compliments when he reviewed Kiko on a previous incarnation of Sound Opinions. He said, essentially, that while it was recognizable as a Los Lobos album, something set it apart not only from their previous work but from other works in general: in listening, you are taken to Kikoworld, a place with ancestors but no real possibility of direct descendants. Half Machine belongs in the same class; it's damaged and barely parse-able, but it has its own internal logic that's transporting and infinitely fascinating. Naturally, when looking at a platypus of an album, you're left with a few questions:
1) Why in the hell hasn't indie hip-hop jumped all over sampling Chrome? The rhythms have the perfect space and timing for rap and you just can't fake the end-of-the-world drum sound.
2) How exactly does one come up with the idea to start a song called "Abstract Nympho" where a human voice is warped to sound like a cow lowing? Can such a choice be blamed entirely on drugs or studio experimentation? Something tells me that while they may have made a contribution, there is highly conscious direction at work and I'm desperate to get at that thought process. Someone will have to think a little bit like that to cure cancer.
Abstract Nympho - Chrome
3) Speaking of "Abstract Nympho," the riff at the center of that song is good enough to ride for an album, let alone a five minute song, but, like so many of the best moments on Half Machine, it's leaving as it's arriving, lasting less than a minute. And then there's the moan in "Chromosome Damage" (which is actually from Alien Soundtracks but is grouped on the same release by Touch and Go) that's as good a vocal hook as you'll hear in any well-ironed pop tune. However, it shows up only once in the tune proper, and, even more powerfully, as the song fades out. Ridiculous. It's an album that shits brilliance. Should Chrome be tried for lack of musical conservation? Isn't such behavior wasteful?
Chromosome Damage - Chrome
4) And, at the same time the album's coming as it's going in bits and flashes, there are stretches of pure, repetitive kraut-rock-style groove worthy of the finest psychedelia or metal. Is whiplash the point?
5) If you throw a protest song in the midst of this dementia, does it diminish the power of the protest or add coherence to the rest of the thing? In other words, what the hell is "March of the Chrome Police (A Cold Clammy Bombing)" doing in here? I mean, it's got great things to say about ditching paranoia, but the next song's "You've Been Duplicated," which is all about how people are gonna be recreated and replaced.
March of the Chrome Police (A Cold Clammy Bombing) - Chrome
Having said all this, Half Machine Lip Moves is not cerebral in the least; it doesn't pose any of this stuff directly. It just keeps moving irrevocably, delightfully, toward nowhere in particular.