Saturday, June 05, 2010
One idea, three ways: Voivod, Kettle Chips and the unified rock aesthetic
Blown away tonight by Killing Technology, a 1987 album by Quebec prog-thrash overlords Voivod that I picked up this afternoon on LP. As I marvel at the completeness of the vision presented here--everything plays into the sci-fi gestalt, right down to the lyric sheet, which features drummer-artist Away's brilliant ancient-to-the-future calligraphy--I think about a quote that's been springing to mind constantly of late. The source is an interview with the admirably single-minded black-metal duo Bone Awl, itself known for a striking audiovisual unity:
What I first found attractive in Bone Awl and in your label Klaxon Records, were your excellent artworks, which succeed in remaining really black-metalish while moving away from commonplaces... Did you study arts?
All together now! You write one idea in three ways. Once in music, once in words, and once in images.
To me, this is an incredibly profound distillation of what rock aesthetics should be. It's been germinating in my mind for months know, and I see and hear examples of it constantly. Utterly perfect case in point: the work of Glenn Danzig. Think of the imagery, the Misfits, Danzig and Samhain logos; now think of the goth-bluesy sounds; now think of the graphic, lurid, sumptuously dark words. ONE IDEA/THREE WAYS.
Voivod is exactly like that: Piggy's cyborg riffage; Snake's technoparanoid, Philip K. Dick-ian words; Away's gritty-fantastical graphic mania (compiled here in book form). ONE IDEA/THREE WAYS. Can't wait to dig deeper into this particular catalog.
Most of my favorite rock fits this bill: Craw (the art inside the first two records enthralls me to this day--the perfect analog for the band's smart-went-crazy flailings), ALL (can you imagine ALL's hyperactive prog-punk without its cartoon mascot, Allroy?), Morbid Angel (those riffs... that LOGO!), Rush (the arcane nobility of the tunes=the Star Man reaching ever higher), Black Flag (Ginn/Pettibon), even something like the Band (that music is inseparable from those classic old-timey photos)--I could go on and on.
I've been thinking a lot about this re: my own band, STATS. I guess what it really comes down to is brand-building, no? And not in a crass way, but you want to use all the media at your disposal to drive home the company message, as it were. That's one reason I decided a few years back to rope in my close friend Remi Thornton as our official cover artist:
I want a unified look, as though each new release were a new flavor of Kettle Chips--a spin on a familiar template. And I also realized that, as much as I love a lot of instrumental rock, words are important to me. (Don Caballero's publishing imprint said it all: "Not the Only Music You Listen to Music.") Accordingly, vocals and lyrics are making a comeback in the music of STATS. Stay tuned as we attempt to craft ONE IDEA/THREE WAYS.
Kind readers, what are other great examples of ONE IDEA/THREE WAYS in music? Bring 'em on in the comments.
P.S. Just watched Under Great White Northern Lights, a fine recent White Stripes documentary. ONE IDEA/THREE WAYS is all over what Jack and Meg do. (Jack speaks constantly in the film of aesthetic "constriction.")