Dying to rock
The Numb EP
The term "post-rock" hasn't caught on in rock-crit circles, but nothing so perfectly captures the intentions and actions of bands who create such an amorphous sound using the tools hanging in the garage. Guitar, bass, vocals, drums--they're the heartbeat and backbone of rock-and-roll, yet when a band can come along and create the disturbingly foreign out of devices so familiar, here's proof we've moved past history and landed in the inevitable future. Hence, post-rock; hence, Baboon.
Baboon, which is so often lumped in with the Toadies and Brutal Juice in the so-called "Fraternity of Noise" (itself a disingenuous term that signifies discord over order), is a rare band that survives the transfer from stage to studio; even through the speakers, the members of Baboon always seem on the brink of falling off the stage, of burning through their strings, of howling till their throats are rubbed raw. "Numb" is a protracted caterwaul (singer Andrew Huffstetler might be screaming "Die!" but he might not) over Mike Rudnicki's staccato guitar; "I'm OK if You're OK" begins as a melange of screeches and beats and disintegrates from there.
This is rock-and-roll that borrows from punk and transcends the narrow genre; it's loud and powerful but arty enough to make it avant-garde for the kids who don't know any better, if only because it never sticks to one chord or one tempo for very long. "Give Me Something Real" is as close as Baboon gets to conventional, smacking of pop-punk because you can understand every syllable, and "Parade Ground Explosion" is a deep breath before the finish line--that is, the album's closers ("Master Salvatoris" and "Why'd You Say Die," both from 1994's Face Down in Turpentine), which end the EP with a holler and a promise that turns into a threat.
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Actually, 53 minutes of hell
"Is It the Sun" hints at the rock-and-roll interior Garfunkel and Garfunkel keep covered with a frat-folk exterior, and for at least one song out of a dozen, Messina and Messina almost escape unscathed by their pretensions. But don't get carried away: The music doesn't overcome its idiot content, and when Jack O'Neill (who sounds, bizarrely, exactly like Michael Hutchence of INXS) starts whining about living in L.A. next to movie stars, you start praying for a drive-by.
Maybe Oates and Oates will hit it big in a post-H.O.R.D.E. world where bad taste wears its baseball cap backwards and boys wear their acoustic guitars like badges of sensitive pride, but the last thing anyone in the world needs is more oversung and underwritten songs about love letters and broken promises and riding in Mommy's borrowed car.