Boris: Pink

Boris is heavy. They are really, really heavy. That's a good thing, especially if you like heavy music. Boris is also experimental, and they incorporate lots of droning guitars and screeching feedback into their sound. They're reasonably talented on their instruments, and did I mention that they're heavy?

Unfortunately, they still manage to sound like a bunch of high school wankers sitting in a garage with a baggie of pot and a blacklight.*

It's hard to create experimental music. To do it well, you usually need either an innate and genius-level understanding of music, or the ability to master an instrument and then forget every rule you ever learned. Tuning your guitar down and cranking up the distortion might have been cutting-edge a few decades ago, but it doesn't cut it anymore.

(* Boris has released a whole bunch of albums in the past 15 years, many consisting of just a few very long songs. Pink is supposedly a significantly different album for them, so it's quite possible that they are a superb experimental band who fell short on this release. Or they could just be a bunch of wankers who are superb at giving woodies to record critics and insecure metalheads who feel the need to prove their intelligence and diversity.)

Music: 2.5 EPFL library cards out of a possible 5
This is a good album if you are a big fan of doom metal, particularly its more ambient aspects. However, once you go outside the relatively narrow scope of that genre, this is mediocre at best. If Godspeed You! Black Emperor made a doom metal record, it would crush Boris under their own fuzzy limitations.

Packaging: 3 EPFL library cards out of a possible 5
Kudos to the band for embracing the most un-metal of colors. The cover art features one of Blake's watercolor depictions of Milton's Paradise Lost, filtered in a cheery pink. The font color for the inner text is aesthetically nice, but it makes the words virtually impossible to read.

Listen if you like: Sunn 0))), but find Altar (which was recorded with Boris) too difficult; Black Sabbath, but find their early songwriting to be too mainstream; Tia Carrera, but find their Hendrix-inspired sound a bit commonplace.

If it were food, it'd be: ground hamburger being passed off as filet mignon.


bob_vinyl said...

Wow, this review finds you writing about two things about which you know nothing: doom metal and meat. Oh I forgot, you do know something about meat. Maybe I need to listen to this again to see if know something about doom metal too.

bob_vinyl said...

All half-serious kidding aside, I do find your Godspeed point rather compelling. I like this album, but it's nowhere near the level of experimentation of Godspeed. Plus, in a sense Godspeed is really heavy, just not in the loud, fuzzy guitars sorta way we tend to expect. To be fair to Boris though, not measuring up to Godspeed doesn't make them mediocre, it just makes them some tiny fraction short of perfect.

Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

to each their own, I suppose...I found this album to be quite emotional, particularly the opening track...for me, it's how much passion they exude through intentional distortion...plus when we saw them play last year, I'll put any band up against them...it was the most amazing set I'd seen then...plus Ottobar was logjammed with people, unheard of for a band that's not a pop punk or emo crew...unfortunately, I'm in disagreement with your analysis, but again, to each their own

taotechuck said...

Bob, your brilliant comments continually tempt me to use that shiny little "Delete Comment" button. But then you actually come back with something relevant. Who'd'a thunk it?

There's much more than a tiny fraction between Boris and Godspeed. Listen to the song compositions, and you'll hear a huge difference between the two bands. To me, it's the difference between being a player and being a musician; great players are incredibly talented on their chosen instrument, but true musicians are gifted even without an instrument in their hands.

Boris reminds me of the hacks I knew in music school who wanted to create this crazy, avant-garde experimental music, but didn't have the ability to do it. It takes such an incredible mix of chops, knowledge, talent, creativity, heart, and vision to make music like this, and if even one element is missing, it makes a huge difference.

And Ray, I'm not surprised that Boris put on a great show, and if I'd caught it, I might have a different opinion. But saying "it's how much passion they exude through intentional distortion" almost validates my point. Dozens of bands have used "intentional distortion" to express their passion, and after a while, it grows stale. It's no different than some screamo jackass alternately whining then shrieking. The first time I heard it, it was incredibly powerful, but by the 100th time, it's dead.

Passion doesn't come from screaming, and it doesn't come from a distortion pedal. Artists who have to rely on clichés to express their passion probably aren't all that passionate to begin with.