Rye Coalition; Thursday; High on Fire

Look in the used bin of any record store, and you'll probably find a dusty copy of 1996's Hee Saw Dhuh Kaet, the first--and might as well be only--record from Jersey City's once precious Rye Coalition. It's not a bad record. Well, it wasn't a bad record when I heard it last, about three years ago. I used to love a lot of stupid music, and looking back, Rye Coalition was probably pretty good, compared to all that other crap. Their music was butt-shaking but not style-conscious; they were chubby boys with a stupid sense of humor; they were under no impression that they had disproportionate amounts of soul, or were from any past decade. It was all rock, no rhetoric. Somehow, I thought that "Kitty kat, where's your money at?!" was the most brilliant chorus I'd ever heard.

In 1999, I heard Rye's second album, Lipstick Game--apparently, they had become Led Zeppelin. Although, briefly, I thought it was wonderfully masculine, it wasn't long before everyone woke up to the truth that they were now just another hair band. I skipped their Denton show that summer because watching The Parent Trap on television seemed like a better idea. Lipstick Game isn't in every used bin, because not nearly as many people actually purchased the record in the first place. Why? Most of us gave up on Rye Coalition then; we were glad to get it over with early, so that we weren't sucked into liking At the Drive-In. Does the recently released On Top matter? Not really.

It seems, however, that many still live in the year 1996. The programmers at MTV2 (a poorer substitute for The Box could not be imagined), the people who have flooded our homes with the likes of Thursday, certainly do. Whiny and wussy, Thursday sounds like all the bands that made Rye Coalition seem palatable back then; if Piebald is still around, it should be getting royalty checks. The Thursday aesthetic is manufactured earnestness: This was the case with its predecessors in 1996, but it is now glaringly apparent in the light of big bucks. Their album, Full Collapse, sounds like it was recorded rough, but wasn't. The video for "Understanding (In a Car Crash)" looks like it was homemade, but it wasn't. In fact, the video has broken down every element of this 1996 culture and remanufactured it, from the silly dances the singer does (which screams, "Play a guitar or something!") to the conspicuous "Pirate Radio" poster in the background. And I swear, every time I see that video, it gets longer.

In the face of inescapable pretty-boy nonsense, I can think of nothing more compelling than Oakland trio High on Fire's stoner rock. They're loud and heavy enough to reassure anyone that the '90s are over. Singer Matt Pike used to be in Sleep, and this is the direct descendant: The calculated magnitude of every riff is numbing, and live, it's actually visible. Instead of parading around with bravado or silly emotions, High on Fire is poker-faced and stagnant. Just what we need.