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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
From Monument to Masses
From Monument to Masses
Dim Mak Records

Rating: NR/10 ?

October 1, 2004
Few things in music are more rare than a politically motivated rock band with palatable music behind the idealist lyrics. Rage Against the Machine have been undoubtedly the most widely accepted politi-punk group of all time, the annoyance of Zack de La Rocha overcome only by the guitar wizardry of Tom Morello and the pumelling drums of Brad Wilk. Elsewhere in the progressive politics of rock and roll, the music has generally gone belly up, from Propaghandhi to Midnight Oil and back again. It's almost a given that the brainiac types with ideals and aspirations for social change can't string together a decent set of songs while the madmen with all the hot licks are fashion-conscious thugs from the suburbs. But From Monument To Masses are set to change all of that, one groove at a time.

From Monument To Masses shun the typical idealist blathering of disillusioned textbook slaves and Marxist wannabes, instead sampling the very words of the 1960's social and racial reform movement that swept across the United States. They combine the the verbal prose of great leaders with the abandonment of traditional structure ideas ala Marcel Duchamp. In short they're something like a dub-influenced Don Caballero interpreting the few common threads between the surrealist and anarchist movements of the latter twentieth century. From Monument To Masses want to free the psyche from its enslavement to logic and to aesthetic and concerns, but with the moralistic and political ideas of Huey Newton and Bobby Seale rather than André Breton and Pablo Picasso.

The songs on this release are intensely topographic, such as "Conclusions That Don't Conclude" which has the best breakdowns I've heard in a long time, lyrical samples interspersed with the bass and guitar locking down in a soulful groove while the guitar is cleanly picked in antagonistic fashion. Ultimately they all break loose for a moment before the low end is roped in again, the guitar begins a gentle loop upon which programmed beats and samples are let loose, the whole concoction eventually crumbling into the delayed guitar which ends abruptly.

"Clinical Features of Rock Trauma" begins with the bleating of air raid sirens and the tangling of beautiful cross-channel guitars before it begins tracing circles through a number of highs and lows and a host of interesting samples. It's a long track, clocking in at over eight minutes, but it careens dangerously close to total collapse on a number of occasions, most of the time struggling to shift tempo without the help of a vocal sample. There's a great bit of delayed finger tapping early on, but it's followed up by an unfortunate use of a discordant toppling process. As is usually the case, a catchy sample of political speech designed to insight social action salvages the moment and the track goes on to present more of the groove-heavy style of reverb soaked rock fit for a prison lockdown or a riot in the streets.

From Monument to Masses show great promise with their first outing, making bold statements without speaking a word and balancing heavy-handed guitar riffage and noise compositions with nimble, brushed percussion and jazzy bass work. Sometimes the balance is precarious, the desire to diffuse poignant moments with sketchy noise too strong. But aside from the few times that the Oakland trio lose track of their line, they're right on top of it, drawing a tight bead.

Reviewed by Clifton Gates
Currently sleeping on beaches in Costa Rica, Clifton Gates is an occasional contributor, editor, idea springboard and moral crutch to LAS magazine.

See other reviews by Clifton Gates



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