Big Black - Songs About Fucking (Cover Artwork)

Big Black

Big Black: Songs About Fucking

Songs About Fucking (1987)

Touch and Go


4
If you were to tell me that all music is meant to strictly be fun, enjoyable and pleasurable, you and I would possibly have a physical altercation. Then again, I am a pretty skinny hippy, so I guess a yelling match would do; but really, the point of saying this is that music is not always meant to b...

If you were to tell me that all music is meant to strictly be fun, enjoyable and pleasurable, you and I would possibly have a physical altercation. Then again, I am a pretty skinny hippy, so I guess a yelling match would do; but really, the point of saying this is that music is not always meant to be relaxing and letting your mind forget about your life's troubles -- rather, some music gives you a heap of problems. It's music like the band Big Black and their album, Songs About Fucking, which should come with a bag of sleeping pills, a razorblade and instructions that let you remember true depression is released along the river of the arms, not across the woods of the wrist; some music is simply an experience.

Big Black unleash a horde of grinding noise through your speakers, like a falling avalanche, thus making more noise as guitars and bass sound as indistinguishable as a train being derailed. Honestly, I am not sure if anyone can possibly enjoy this music, but they can certainly respect it. It's this sense of ear-shattering dynamics to the tune of pounding, trash can-like drums that often is abstract enough that it sometimes borders on indulgence. Yet at the same time, it can also be subversive brilliance. Now, isn't that the point of art? That is, to create subversion in the listener? After all, this brings about a new way of both thinking and viewing the world. And that is true musical art -- something that is done in a manner that transcends...breaks barriers. In other words, it is something that doesn't sound like the traditional generic sounds on mainstream radio and MTV.

Granted, Songs About Fucking is in no way a perfect album; when you can't make out even a parcel of the social-political lyrics, you are merely left with noise ("Kashmir S. Pulaski Day," "Pavement Saw"), especially when the vocals also lack that slightly hooky pitch (such as on "Ergot"). Yet, songs like "The Model" and "Bad Penny" are stellar examples of music as commentary. "The Model" (a cover of the song by German progressive rockers, Kraftwerk) is an obvious statement of people's obsession of body image in other people. While this song is also driven by distorted vocals, that actually gives it a slightly catchy quality. "Bad Penny" is about someone's desires and instincts controlling their mind; "I know what a liar I am" the song sings, telling the listener that sometimes our desires take precedent in our mind in this dog-eat-dog society that fucks us up.

"He's a Whore" is probably the most accessible song here, and the rest of the songs (aside from the short instrumental, "Bombastic Intro") are good examples of noise-rock as arty ruckus.

Songs About Fucking might not always be the best example of noise-as-an-art form that has been done both before its time and since, but it is one of the most uncompromising.