Styles: dirge, blues, industrial, post-punk, honky tonk, art rock
Others: A Silver Mt. Zion, Swans, Diamanda Galas, This Heat, Xiu Xiu
Reasons for not making art are all around us. It serves its own purpose. But it seems we’re stuck with this absurd drive. One could call this clinging a plea for levity at best, but the most lasting art always moves past distraction. The stressors that we face in trying to be good or content or ideal become shades instead of obstacles. We wanna create from a position of strength, to command an audience. Yet an artist is only as strong as their art. Life is so much bigger and stronger than what’s in anyone’s brain. Perspective and values, however cherished, are easily shattered by their sheer insignificance in the overwhelmingly complex balance (or lack thereof) of life itself.
But all works of art, like all minds, have the potential to overcome mere sentiment. And that potential is glimpsed here in 10 restless hatchlings that make up Carla Bozulich’s new and perhaps most essential record. There is no shortage of dire, overwhelming music being made that reflects life’s continued de-affirmation through chaos and wanton destructions great and small. What seems to be lacking more often than not is the cold light of day. There is no aesthetic scrim to Boy’s music, despite its traceable precedents. What we have here is human and messy, fearsomely fretting about the tender enclosure of sing-song and how it will not lift you over the chasm. Its hooks are more like bloody torn fingernails at the wall of pleasure-seeking. Not one of these songs are satisfied with themselves, but they exist in a realm of sonic grace that heedlessly pushes ahead.
When Bozulich sings “I just wanna fuck up the whole world” on “Deeper Than The Well,” it’s not a pose. The barren, loping structure of the instrumentation narrows as it goes, teetering on the brink of potent nihilistic forces that lurk around consciousness but hold fast in the glassy glare of despondency that is the vocal. Its severity is tempered by a dangerously attractive sense that you are in the room with this organism, and it’s taking you down to die (finally, a decent night’s sleep). “Wouldn’t it be fine, if at checkout time, I was doing what I’m doing right now” is how this record says goodbye, despite the slinky defiance of its ultra-refracted gospel opener. This album and all its itinerant pieces of paper and plastic will get dusty and mildewed in libraries and desks and landfills. At best, these scraps will be remolded or reused for new scraps. For Bozulich to do what she does, like any artist, she must love what she does as she’s doing it. “Sentiment be damned,” says every unpredictable noise, tonal shift, and rhythmic stutter, “I wanna be here and now — here and now and how”!
And so it is. All fetish and confection aside, Boy is a living, gasping, impassioned/dispassionate grapple with existence. It patiently yet economically moves through melody and rhythm to walking, dancing, convulsing, and fleshing the fuck out. It’s an elegant beast that screams to be, even though the world would sooner acknowledge a video of a cat trying to eat a cactus. I’m excited to’ve communed with this fearsome creature, even if it leaves final obsolescence as my responsibility alone despite the looming. Tomorrow is another day, but this isn’t just another record, and that’s a relief.
01. Ain’t No Grave
02. One Hard Man
03. Drowned To The Light
04. Don’t Follow Me
05. Gonna Stop Killing
06. Deeper Than The Well
08. Lazy Crossbones
09. What Is It Baby?
10. Number X