Rock music has been inherently link with youth movements, political unrest, and unease, since its creation as amplified Rhythm & Blues. It was the music of rebellion, straight up; it was the sonic equivalent of the movie The Wild Ones, with its aimless, mindless, hormonal teenage rebellion.
Rock 'n roll's teen angst is problematic for a variety of reasons. First of all, there's the idea of rebellion gradually replacing the real hairy danger of revolution. Let us not forget that some of rock's more vocal proponents, like the MC5's Wayne Kramer, did serious time in the '60s for harboring heavy artillery, after being the only band that had the gallstones to play at the Chicago Democratic -Convention - a day that would live in tear-gassed history.
Compare this street scene with your average working class pub on a weekend night. Wurlitzers light up the ceiling like the ghost of Janis' paisley light show, while plastic bands with teardrop tattoos play roboticized classic, sped-up rockabilly, Southern rock, power pop. A fourth wave rockabilly band has about as much menace as puzzle night at a retirement home.
Jazz music has had a similar trajectory of revolutionary zeal giving way to polite cosmopolitan. It's even more insidious, in this case, as the farthest echelons of jazz are the soundtrack of a real radical African-American music and culture. Bop, Bebop, Hard Bop, were all the musical version of the Harlem Renaissance. Fake bebop beatnik hipsters runs the risk of replacing the real struggles of the Black Panthers, the wild poetics of Langston Hughes, the far-out Afrofuturism of Sun Ra, with a mock turtleneck sweater. It turns the nuclear chaos of Albert Ayler or Sun Ra's fireball jazz into a flickering matchstick to entertain the yuppies.
So we turn our thoughts to a musician that revolutionized both rock and jazz, by injecting both with a hefty dose of Western classical music and a wicked, messed-up sense of humor. Frank Zappa was infamously quoted as saying "Jazz isn't dead. It just smells funny." Jazz rock auteurs Zappa, as well as friend/collaborator Captain Beefheart, loom large over Hearing Aid, the debut album from Auckland, NZ's Mutton Jeff.
Hearing Aid is a dense, elaborate extrapolation of instrumental rock, that is, at times, weird, atonal, funky, often rocking, sometimes almost funny. Hearing Aid is crafted in the tradition of Beefheart's singular opus Trout Mask Replica, with rock music being subverted to become an alien classical language unto itself.
There are no conventions to anything standard on Hearing Aid. Looking for hooky choruses and chorus-y hooks? Bangers? Club ballads? Look elsewhere. You won't find much in the way of hummable melodies on Hearing Aid. And that is not a bad thing.
Mutton Jeff plays every single note on this ridiculously ambitious, intricate release himself, with a mixture of live guitar and bass meeting electric piano and programmed drums. It's all as tight and cohesive as a Swiss clock. Instead of The Monkees, Hearing Aid is more like a Mahler symphony.
The bass parts speak to the possibilities of a more advanced musical language. Most bass players hang out near the root chord, emphasizing whatever the guitar is playing to thicken up the rhythm section. When the bass goes off, gets weird, it's like the ground softens beneath your feet - it's like walking through quicksand in a mirrorer valley. It's a strange sensation, filling the listener with all manner of complicated and nuanced emotions. So much more advanced than the "eat/screw/sleep/die" paradigm of pop club culture.
Amazing things are possible when people keep their adventurous youthful spirit and combine it with the refinement of age and experience. Being smart and being rebellious are not mutually exclusive. And being ambitious does not mean sucking up to the status quo and telling people what they want to hear.
Hearing Aid is a dense, sprawling journey, that offers fresh insights and wonders with each listen. Mutton Jeff is a talented and detailed musician, producer, and engineer, making whatever technical foibles that worry this release inconsequential. It is, frankly, a chance to hear something new and different.
We are dedicated to informing the public about the different types of independent music that is available for your listening pleasure as well as giving the artist a professional critique from a seasoned music geek. We critique a wide variety of niche genres like experimental, IDM, electronic, ambient, shoegaze and much more.
Are you one of our faithful visitors who enjoys our website? Like us on Facebook