Burning Star Core Comets on Fire / Burning Star Core (Split LP)

[Yik Yak; 2005]

Rating: 4/5

Styles: noise, experimental rock
Others: Hair Police, Flaherty-Corsano, Mike Shiflet, Tony Conrad

Comets on Fire say bollocks to the rock 'n' roll myth as vehemently as they retell it. They refuse to let you believe for one minute that the Stratocaster your dad bought your pimply, fourteen-year-old Little League benchwarmer ass to let you know that the divorce really wasn't your fault is the sole province of your white, middle-class American male cultural identity, even though they also profess a fanatical belief in the life-altering power of the electric guitar riff.

That's because Comets' idea of celebrating rock always comes back to holding a torch up to the various traditions from whence it sprang. This two-song practice room jam session with junk heap prophet Burning Star Core (aka C. Spencer Yeh) doesn't engage in as much overt formal cross-pollination as 2004's Blue Cathedral -- there are none of Ben Chasny's bongload ragas, no Coltrane-imbued sheets of saxophone sound, no pagan images of antlered midnight suns and harvest cults -- but it's still a stylistic mutt.

While they're ostensibly pure distillations of rockist ideals built upon bluesy motifs, libidinous rhythms, and treble-heavy cosmic explorations, neither of these side-long filth fests paints a romantic picture of the good ol' days when rock supposedly "meant something." The A-side establishes itself with a sneering Ethan Miller guitar figure and sets into a relatively straight forward groove, with violin, echoplex, and searing white noise knob-twiddling weaving melodic and discordant threads through the high end. After minutes of vicious swirl, the bottom falls out of the cockprance -- the drums fly out of the pocket, gaps emerge in the foundational chord progression, and Yeh's voice bellows through the low gravity skree like that of a ruddy-cheeked protest leader in the Delta sun. Miller eventually pulls the wig-out into some semblance of the original death march, but the players take greater liberties in their free-form destruction during this second go-round. The B-side is denser, more rhythmic, and less dynamic, losing itself in skronking solar winds and bordering on an opaque noise avalanche, but in the best of ways; were it not for an underlying funk bass vamp, the piece wouldn't be far removed from a Hair Police jam.

By in large, this collaboration travels in the same absurdist orbit as Blue Cathedral. Rather than lashing out with a messy maelstrom to deconstruct "commercialized" "bastardizations" of rock forms, the musicians rummage through a sonic landfill to explode any notions that rocking can be a truly triumphant or glorious pursuit. An acknowledged sense of ridiculousness pervades the seething skronk, and it only finds meaning by disavowing meaning. And yet, the album does rock on a visceral, "Shit yeah!" level, and it seems extremely serious about rousing intense, immediate reactions. Even when they're exposing the pretentious posturing behind rock's "commercial" and "artistic" faces and denuding the genre's white dude iconography by means of their liberated shit salvos, both artists still express an undeniable love for the genre, drawing a great deal of energy from the utter futility of clamoring for an authentic, pure rock-out. Given this display of compassion and soft-tipped ironic humor, this gnashing whirl of degenerative brown sound probably exhibits more kindness towards rock than the style's imperialist trajectory warrants. Strat-brandishing backup right fielders are as welcome here as anyone else.

1. Untitled (Side A)
2. Untitled (Side B)