(Northern Spy, 2013)
Once upon a time there was this phone number. It was a magical hotline you could call, and before Foot Village’s new album Make Memories was even out – well before, actually – you could peer into the future and hear the wondrous sounds that would eventually be released on the record. I, too, am peering into the future this day, friends – I write to you from March 19, 2013, and by the time you read this six days from now, (951) 262-2552 will cease to deliver its magnificent promise. But I can assure you, today (March 19) is a bittersweet day, for the transcendent music that was once only available over a lousy telephone speaker is now yours to ponder through the warm embrace of your stereo equipment. Today is the day Make Memories is officially released as a purchasable item. Hurry, before the clear vinyl with rainbow splatters is all gone!
What a way to connect with fans, with a hotline streaming your new album in advance. Foot Village continue to explore this relationship to great effect, and we’re all the better for it. It’s so clear that the band is trying to bridge the divide between musician and listener in wildly unique ways, and they’re succeeding in a business built to fail. The members – Citizens Kinsman, Lee, Taylor-Fantastic, and Rowan (and introducing fifth member, Citizen Loveridge of Beak>/Fairhorns on electronics, etc.) – obviously love the music and the experience, and how can you not when you’re wailing away on drums and shouting your lungs out at almost every moment? It’s impossible not to get lost in the euphoria as a listener, and I can only imagine how awesome the feeling must be to actually play these songs. So yeah, they’ve reached me, anyway.
Foot Village has established themselves over the years as the elder statespeople of the LA weird-rock scene, whose discussion begins at the now-legendary punk venue The Smell and includes in the conversation such luminaries as No Age, HEALTH, Captain Ahab, and The Mae Shi, among others. I was first introduced to the mayhem Foot Village, and these other bands, could conjure through the concert film Live at The Smell, and since I live on the East Coast, I had to experience it second hand. Of course, this kind of energy transcends computer screens, and the raw energy and unique styles on display put me right in the middle of it anyway. It was with this introduction that I dove into the Foot Village catalog, and solidified my belief that Citizens Lee and Kinsman are the West Coast’s answer to Kim Gordon and … Fred Schneider (I guess). I’ll go with the Sonic Youth comp though because of Foot Village’s proximal influence on their musical comrades. (Kinsman, aka Brian Miller, has run the scene-defining label Deathbomb Arc since the late 1990s, about which I’ve spilled gallons of positive digital ink. He does kind of sound a little bit like the B-52s frontman though, but it’s merely a passing note.)
And with my immersion into that catalog, I totally didn’t expect the 12-minute droning kraut juggernaut “1600 Dolla Bill” to open an album by a band known for literally octopus-like (four members, eight arms, duh) ultra-kinetic freakouts. But its hypnotic and droning groove (featuring synthesizer! Or is that guitar feedback?) is exactly the kind of thing Foot Village would do, because they don’t care what you or I expect. That’s what makes them such a unique and fun band. New member Loveridge’s impact is immediately felt as his tonal textures augment the rhythmic elements, elevating the band’s performance and allowing them to stretch beyond the usual limits of their song lengths. (Single “Let Bebongs Be Bebongs, Idiot” notwithstanding.) Here’s the great part – it doesn’t get boring in the slightest, and there isn’t even much chance to zone out to an extended groove as many kraut tunes allow you to do – “1600 Dolla Bill” is as immediate at minute eight as it is at minute one, offering little respite from its tense and gnarly grip.
But perhaps the overall impact of a track like “Dolla” is how it affects the song it’s stacked up against. It transitions into “This Song Is a Drug Deal” (notice a pattern of great song titles here? “Let Bebongs Be Bebongs, Idiot,” while not on this album, is one of my favorite titles of all time), placing into stark contrast the mellower, more introspective side of Foot Village that they’re exhibiting here with the antics they’ve shown previously. The immediacy of “Drug Deal” is magnified, automatically kicking in heart palpitations and muscle spasms that you knew were coming, but you just didn’t know when. It’s also a tightly wound song, benefitting from three distinct parts interwoven over the course of its three minutes like a suite, each part obviously composed carefully and with an ear toward maximum impact. “AIDS Sucks, Make Money” (guys, please, write this for me, you’re good at it), my favorite track of the album and an honest-to-goodness “pop” song (pop hit!), and “New Jersey” also follow this template and reward the listener grinding teeth and biting nails, waiting to jump around in a histrionic frenzy, with blissful abandon.
“Warlock” combines the two stylistic paths into a lengthy meditation (although far short of “1600 Dolla Bill” at seven minutes), and “The End of the World” ends the album as it began, with a communal droning with tribal and trance elements. I reviewed the video for “The End of the World” here previously, but it takes on a different feel as it bookends the high-energy, creamy, gooey, delicious … er, center of the album. It felt at first as if it was sort of mocking the total cockup the Mayans’ apocalyptic prediction, but I’ve got a little more somber take on it this time around, with Kinsman’s repeated intoning of “Why is there a God, and why is there not” seemingly bemoaning the actual discussion in the face of chaos. Read that sentence a couple times to let it sink in. I agree with him.
After “The End of the World” faded from my iTunes, “Psychic Connection” from the Pisspounder compilation began with Citizen Kinsman shouting semi-intelligable nonsensical gunk at the top of his lungs, something about the citizens of Foot Village having a psychic connection to the Vietnamese mafia, before the entire band has a shitfit through my speakers. The transition was jarring. This is what I might have truly anticipated if I hadn’t already become acquainted with “The End of the World,” and it’s kind of a humorous juxtaposition, showcasing just how different Foot Village sounds on Make Memories. Some might call the shift maturity – although their drums-and-shouting modus operandi is still gloriously intact, the textures and restraint exhibited throughout serve the band well. This is a fabulous album, by an extremely forward-thinking band, and both band and album (and back catalog) are perfect antitodes to malaise, musical or otherwise.
RIYL: Aa, Rose for Bohdan, Black Pus, The Mae Shi