How long is your attention span? In the hardcore community, you don’t have to be a particularly focused individual to thrive – in fact, it’s probably better that you lack the concentration necessary to tie your shoes to really work yourself into the mood. (That’s what slip-on shoes are for anyway. And buckled or zippered combat boots.) It doesn’t take very long for a fist to connect with its target face, does it? Nor does it take very long for grindcore all-stars The Locust to get to the fucking point. Twenty-three songs blaze by in twenty-one minutes. Do that math, right now. These songs are short. Wow, I just called them songs – think of them more as preemptive napalm strikes in miniature. They’re hard, fast, and they do not let up. Don’t ever mistake me when I say this – Plague Soundscapes is the fist, and your face is … your face. It will be hit, hard, and often.
Crazy that the band hails from San Diego, then, right? Shouldn’t they be toiling in the basements and VFW holes of gloomy semi–East Coast locales, hoping to God they don’t end up in a rumble with any of the ten other bands on the bill before they go on? It’s too sunny in San Diego. Too much happy. The Locust is … I dunno, are they “happy”? They scream a lot, and their music resembles short bursts of violence more so than actual music, so it’s hard to tell. But they certainly are excellent at what they do. As much as scrawny, tweaking, straight-F teenagers in dire need of Ritalin can absolutely mainline Locust records, the elements of composition within the tracks are so clear and focused and innovative – not to mention almost impossibly condensed – that you can’t imagine their creation outside of hours and hours of hard work and practice. So no, not an inkling of surf and sand can be found on Plague Soundscapes – in fact, “Your Mantel Disguised as a Psychic Sasquatch” probably comes closest in spirit, but even then we’re talking national parks instead of sand and sun. (Wait, I think I’m confused – that’s Sequoia National Park in California, not Sasquatch National Park. My bad – so there’s really no connection whatsoever.) (And we should consider changing it to Sasquatch National Park.)
That reminds me – the song titles are ridiculous, and it’s impossible to make out what anyone’s saying – make that dry heaving – at any given time, so what we’re left with is grade-school jokiness masquerading as bold statement. Or maybe that’s the other way around, but it’s impossible to tell without a lyric sheet, and as you are almost certainly aware, I can crank out 700 to 800 words about Plague Soundscapes without stooping to consult a lyric sheet. So I’m left to wonder – and I’m either really curious or not curious in the slightest – what “Identity Exchange Program Rectum Return Policy” has to do with anything, and why whatever it means is screamed so forcefully that it loses any and all meaning as it’s retched. Ditto “Twenty-Three Lubed Up Schizophrenics with Delusions of Grandeur,” “The Half-Eaten Sausage Would Like to See You in His Office,” and “Late for a Double Date with a Pile of Atoms in a Water Closet.” (See? 700 words easy with these song titles.) I’m not going to judge these, or the more puerile entries. They will stand on their own.
What is true is that despite the childishness, The Locust has gotten some pretty hyperbolic accolades, including “the future of hardcore punk” according to the allmusic.com blurb (although the attribution “by more than a few people” casts a bit of doubt as to the sources). (Fine, it got an 8.3 from Pitchfork upon its release in 2003.) And the combination of guitar scree, tinfoil bass shreds, math-rock rhythms and patterns (what there are of them), and dangerous no-wave synth, all performed by skinny dudes actually dressed in locust costumes, is too interesting and action-packed to ignore. In fact, The Locust family tree shoots branches in prolific directions within the hardcore and powerviolence community: Swing Kids, Head Wound City, Some Girls, Holy Molar, Crimson Curse, Bastard Noise, and on, etc. The performances are rigorous and tightly wound, and tracks do in fact stand out from the maelstrom: “Wet Dream War Machine” is HEALTH sped up 2x and shredded, and “File Under ‘Soft Core Seizures’” is almost Blood Brothers–esque in its relative gentleness. (I can’t believe I just typed that.) “Pickup Truck Full of Forty Minutes” ends the album on what sounds like suspension cables snapping and the band approximating an enormous bridge swaying and crashing into the ocean.
What Plague Soundscapes delivers in vicious bursts of violence is tempered by the geeky costumes and the synthesizer cutting through the racket. (And I hope I’m not the only one, but thank God – and Holy Molar – for synthesizer in hardcore.) It is a respite from the thug culture that can permeate the genre, and proves you can have a little bit of fun and not take yourself too seriously. And I’m going to say it – they’re kind of the Devo of hardcore, aren’t they? If I told you to check out the “Devo of Hardcore,” you’d do it, right? Don’t think that you need to do coke or forget your Ritalin or fail to sit through the Lord of Rings trilogy to enjoy this on some level – I don’t do coke or need Ritalin, and I love LOTR, and I’m able to appreciate the craftsmanship on display here. It’s cool stuff.
RIYL: Swing Kids, Struggle, Head Wound City, Some Girls, Melt Banana, Holy Molar, Crimson Curse
“TWENTY-THREE LUBED UP SCHIZOPHRENICS WITH DELUSIONS OF GRANDEUR”
“THE HALF-EATEN SAUSAGE WOULD LIKE TO SEE YOU IN HIS OFFICE” (Yes, wait until about a minute in.)
“FILE UNDER ‘SOFT CORE SEIZURES’ (live)”