Thursday, October 1, 2009

Marky's song #11: Boredoms - "Super Going"

I’ve read that it takes courage to admit one’s mistakes. Not that I expect a Medal of Honor for this one, but truth be told, I gave up on the Boredoms too quickly. I wound up passing on giving their best album a chance for a few years simply because a small handful of earlier releases tried my patience too much. My bad.

A little background history. Back in the day (and by that I mean 1988), the Boredoms arrived from Saturn Japan to unleash incomprehensible music on unsuspecting audiences. Their albums were both aggressively flashy and violently hilarious. The best part about it all was that the uneasy chuckles their music provoked came from both those in the know as well as those who simply wrote the band off as adorable but clueless foreigners. Soul Discharge (1989) and Pop Tatari (1992) were masterpieces of fractured cultural blender-ism; its noise-making tantrums being both amusing and terrifying, yet a surprisingly large amount of the music sticks to the wall once all is said and done. The latter album in particular deserves additional mention; it was released on Warner’s Japanese imprint, which lead Spin magazine writer Mike Rubin to comment that it was probably the least commercially viable album released on a major label since Metal Machine Music.

But all winning streaks have to come to an end sometime. 1994 saw the release of Chocolate Synthesizer, which was only so-so, and then the Super Roots series began to see the light of day and that’s when things started to get tedious. #3 and especially the monolithic #5 were the hardest pills to swallow; the former being a half-hour hardcore stomp and the latter being over an hour of a cymbal wash and open guitar strings. The band called the music “ambient hardcore”, I called it a drag. More than anything, these albums left me sad: my beloved Boredoms had lost their way.

And so, it wasn’t until 2003 when I finally got around to picking up Super æ (pronounced ‘super eye.’) What a boo-boo I made. It’s an awesome album, but for reasons very different from what made Soul Discharge and Pop Tatari so awesome. The band traded thrashcore freak-outs for blissful sun-worshipping voyages.

In order to fully convey the impact of this song, I need to talk a bit about what leads up to it on the album. The opening track, “Super You”, is a pile-up of spliced chords; seven minutes of a band’s jam presented out of sequence with occasional modifications to the tape speed. A tiny beat finally pops up near the end, but it’s practically incidental to the confusing (and confused) instrumental track. If you’ve never heard the Boredoms before, this song is as worthy an introduction as any, but in the context of the album it makes perfect sense. It has to be the opening track – and only on this album.

From there, the album moves on to “Super Are.” It starts with a couple minutes of blocky chords played on what sounds like a Hammond organ. After a while, it gives way to some soft tribal drumming and – what’s this? Actual singing? With harmonies?! On a Boredoms album?!?! It’s true and it’s surprising how well they swing it. The band never gave us any inclination they had this stuff in them. When the first power chords come crashing into the song, it’s the most arena-rock moment the Boredoms have ever created. The track then busts into a sort of primitive stomp punctuated by trumpet runs. An ear-splitting screech brings it to a halt before slamming into our track in question.

Boredoms - "Super Going"

From here, the album soars into the stratosphere. “Super Going” is actually not all that complicated of a song: it mainly just seesaws back and forth between two chords; about eight-and-a-half minutes (!) in, a primal scream causes a few more chords to get tossed into the equation, eventually giving way to one final drumming climax and the word SHINE! Reading the description, you might thing it's the recipe for the most boring song ever. But in the hands of the Boredoms, it's a breathtaking magic carpet ride. “Super Going” does what all truly great songs should do – immediately demand you listen to it again once it has ended. It’s a challenge for me not to simply hit the previous track button when I’m playing the full album.

(Here's an edited version of the album with a cool video included.)

The rest of the album is just as fascinating, but it was this song that won me back over. Apparently, the only substantial difference between a spazz-rock band and a trance-rock band is how long they spend focusing on each idea! Subsequent releases have mined similar trance-like territory to lesser effect. Even the live Boadrum experiments didn’t capture my attention as much. I guess the main problem for a band that releases so many wonderful albums is that the bar gets set very high. But really, I should cut the Boredoms some slack – the vast majority of bands never release even one classic album. The Boredoms have blessed us with three.

1 comment:

  1. I quite like this song. This would fit into my post-rock (a silly genre concept, I know) playlist for when I need to focus on some work. I will have to hunt this one down. Thanks, Dann!