Sunday, December 9, 2007

Make Believe - 2005 - Shock Of Being

Make Believe
Shock Of Being
Release Date: Sep 2005
Label: Flameshovel/Polyvinyl

Experimental Post-Rock

"Tim Kinsella and co., fresh off of their last tour as Joan of Arc, must've decided the exact opposite: "We're going to play indie rock, but we're not going to play any chords that make any logical sense at all."

Now that doesn't sound like a very hard task until you actually hear what they came up with. Fractured, jumbled, and chaotic, Shock of Being is one of the most creative albums I've heard in a long time. It's also one of the most annoying albums I've heard in years, and one of the most difficult to get into - much less enjoy - that I've ever heard. In fact, I think that Captain Beefheart's Trout Mask Replica is the only other album I've ever heard that's harder to digest than Shock of Being.

Oddly enough, I was exposed to both albums on the same day, so hearing the impossible oddity that is Captain Beefheart immediately before hearing Make Believe actually made Make Believe a step up on the "logical songwriting" meter, and eased my transition into this stunningly clever album.

The guitarwork is 90% of what makes this album so intrinsically screwed up. Sam Zurick takes on the bulk of the 'I won't play any normal chords' implementation, playing bizarre chord progressions while cramming as many notes into the progressions as possible. He eschews full chords almost entirely throughout the course of the album, relying solely on the barrage of notes in his complex and mind-boggling guitarwork. I can't stress enough that he crams notes into places they don't belong.

He doesn't play very loud either - another anti-convention stroke. He wants every single strange note to be heard loud and clear, so even though the guitar tone is mild and the volume doesn't seem to be very high, the guitars take precedence over the highly staccato, hyper-punctuated, and oddly fitting drumwork and the (thankfully) solid and normal bass work.

Bassist Bobby Burg is the only thing really holding this sound together. That's highly ironic because Burg's side-project, indie-pop band Love of Everything, is extremely non-conventional; I would never have expected him to be the even-keeled sound that glues all of Make Believe's parts together into something almost understandable.

Each of these songs is highly unique, as the drums, guitar, and Kinsella's voice seem to have a brawl in each. Kinsella's voice is alternately a smooth tone, a ragged tone, a yell, and a what-the-heck-was-that-noise (on the really enjoyable "Say What You Mean"). It fits the sound perfectly every time, from the tired "Wild Science, Wild Signs" to the furious "One Zero" to eerie, otherworldly "Small Apartment Party Epiphany".

"SayWhat?" is the perfect example of Make Believe's bizarre sound. Starting with a contorted guitar riff that makes me think of a cat being strangled (with all the squeaks, squawks, and screeches, you'll hear it too), the bass comes in playing backup to the odd progression that guitars are cranking out, but thankfully doing it in half notes. The drums are playing straight quarter notes on a tamborine. The rest of the drums are on intermittent toms and oddly punctuating snare. Kinsella eventually comes in, cooing "Say what you meeean as a frog's low croak says froggie / as the weather says the day / day to day day to day day to day day to day", before getting more intense to let forth this bold statement: "I say, "how-eee, yah-oo-oowow-oo / ________/hayee-ee-ee-ay." I kid you not. That is actually printed in the lyrics booklet. That's also exactly what he sings - that underscore part is the part where he makes this 'I'm being grabbed by the throat' noise that really doesn't have an onamatopoiea even possible.

Make Believe has destroyed indie rock and rebuilt it from the ground up. These guys don't have any conventions here; they don't have any rules, and they don't care. "Doing what you want will never pay well," Kinsella moans on "Small Apartment Party Epiphany," and it's true. The guys in Make Believe are doing what they want, and it's so experimental that it's going to appeal to a very small minority of music lovers. But if you're into the experimental stuff, these guys are very talented - they know what they're doing. It may take five or so listens to understand that they do know what they're doing, but they do know." ~DOA


01 Amscaredica
02 His Short Quip When Eddie's Bothered
03 Say What You Mean
04 Small Apartment Party Epiphany
05 Television Cemetary
06 The Storm on Her Birthday
07 Can't Tell Cop from Cab
08 One Zero
09 A Band Room of One's Own
10 Wild Science, Wild Signs
11 Fumio Nambata Had a Farm
12 Momentum Logic
13 Boom! Sounds Like --Hiss-- from Inside It