Guitar rock is dead. I’ve seen it. It bums under the boardwalk, all shambling fibulas knocking under a spitting, spinning endocrine skull, a denim corpse that yanks itself off of the crusty concrete past and yowls real loud. If it snaps a Gretsch string, it smiles and sticks a cigarette into its forearm. It smiles, splinters its chapped snapping digits into the smoking arm-hole, pulls out a wormy axillary: if you thread a hollowbody with a nerve string, Tommy John sounds a lot like reanimation.
It’s a basement-buried corpse, but it shakes like it’s alive. It buzzes and skuds, it stomps and it pools drool: it’s an entity of expired sound, but it’s a live noise. Guitar rock is dead, and the kids call it Cheena.
It’s a composite sonic zombie, all the best phantom limbs wrenched from the punkest mausoleum this side of Lou Reed’s “Dirty Blvd.” “Cry For Help” is Cheena’s greasy thesis, a Frankensteined three-minute monster, Pharmakon’s sour larynx swallowing the marrow-skirt slide of Hank Wood and the Hammerheads, the veering tackle of Crazy Spirit chewing up Anasazi’s shaking cranial punk. “Car” is the hangover-ready rattletrap that gets you to Spend the Night With… who? What? Something like nine guitars, maybe, careening a shrugging, stunned intone: “What am I doing in your home? ” “Stupor” revs, runs, and explodes like a 1978 Camaro, the gall of reconverted slot-car punk raised up until irrelevance is poetry.
Of course: nothing about jalopy Camaros or Spend the Night With… or Cheena sounds anything like this slab of prose I just spat up. Iggy Pop snorting his face through a microphone, banging drumstick to bloody chest is way more in every single way it could possibly matter than, like, Iggy Pop stalled out on modifiers and semi-colons, misused dashes gloopily circling Relevancy or Meaning. What’s relevancy got to do with junk? In the same basement where Cheena collects drool in the corners of fretboards, there is a table, and on the table is a map where we keep all the stuff we hear. There are things we digest (labeled neat-like, understood and unpacked), the ones that digest us (gobsmacked, we put them outside the borders of continents, but we keep them); we discard the junk that doesn’t help us locate ourselves. “What does it do for music?” we honk. From under the stairs, something snarls:”it doesn’t do— it is.”
Spend the Night With… is junk, the stuff we throw off the table. Guitar rock is dead.
But irrelevance has poetry; the stuff crawling on the basement floor has life. Crack your mouth and spill some spit for the climbing-grime of “Liberated Animal,” the noisy promise between noisy humans to celebrate noisy humanity. There’s no edge to lose if you’re jackal jumping slip-shod one TWO three FOUR of a rock kit wreck holdover from 1978; there’s no wonder that “Lost My Way” sneaks into shape, Chardiet’s dense noise chords an anchor at the center of the song, pulling it down. The same sonic anvil (the site that Pharmakon excises body trauma) weighs on “M.E.,” the spin-off drone into a space where you can’t understand Behl’s lyrics, but you see the sneer. When you’re off the table, not-trying means ground-breaking; when you’re irrelevant, it means you’re sublime. It all coheres with “Electric Snoopy Gang,” the longest number, the Stonesiest twang dirge, the closest to the precious ventricles. “Knick knack paddywhack, my doggy’s gone ” Behl moans and we break into it. We sob. We slobber. We’re all animals.
Slobber isn’t arbitrary. It’s body-stuff from the place that the shouts come from, the staleness and retaining, maybe (guitar rock is dead), but also the salivating: there is poetry beyond death. Spend the Night With… isn’t arbitrary. It’s a shout and a shock, an embrace of what was in the sneer of a now. Why spend more than a night with it? After the embrace, after all the love a corpse can give, all it wants is to stick a cigarette up its noise and breathe; nights are dark and just long enough, la petite mort. Cheena is phantom shamble, a reanimation of bumps that still make us shake. We shudder and we scrape eye crusties off the turbocharged elegy, call it a night: guitar rock is dead.