Originally written by Ian Chainey
This just in: Obscure, no-name critic champions band’s ability to make listening fun instead of harping on their lack of variation or other musical downfalls. The rest of the day’s headlines at 11:00.
“Wait, what?” you’re saying, “Seriously?” Yeah, seriously. Me? The artsy-fartsy douche critic that won’t even read a band’s bio unless it mentions something about artistic growth, is suddenly all about rings of nasty Natty with the boys and music that’s specifically designed to foster a good-time atmosphere? Believe it, and this isn’t just an isolated case. Over the years, I’ve always been fond of outfits that don’t take themselves too seriously. In turn, I’ve always thought that bands like Graf Orlock, Level Plane’s cinema-obsessed grinders, existed outside of exhaustive critical evaluation because they’re, dare I say, “fun.” ‘Course, that f word is usually leveled against artists like it’s hurtful insult, like it’s somehow not okay to only want to make music that people can enjoy without turning on their upstairs meat computers, like you‘re somehow below “real“ music if just want to get the bodies a-moving, the heads a-snapping, and to keep the chuckles a…uh…a-coming. But, keep in mind that Graf Orlock‘s gimmick isn’t limited to the movie-inspired song shtick and that it’s not always a party. They still do pull together some, at times, serious and seriously decent “21st century grind” (we‘re just so far away from Scum and what gets dubbed grind at this point, you know?). But, I mean, it’s the kind of stuff that I’d hate to over-examine. I’d feel weird training my never-satisfied music microscope on ridiculous movie samples that are clearly culled for our instant gratification, nothing more, nothing less.
So, does that mean that these dudes named after the vampire in Noseferatu get a free pass? Definitely not. Destination Time Tomorrow, the EP follow-up to the group’s full-length Destination Time Yesterday, falls into this style’s big trap, this sorta “listening evolution”:
Step 1 or: The Time When Enjoyment is Solely Derived from the Funny Bits: The constant stop n’ go riffing tends to sound samey for the first couple of listens, so you’re left hanging on the funny samples and letting those give the album momentum. (Average listener’s reaction: Oh, the song with the Jurassic Park sample, right. Not: Oh, the song with the da-na-na-na-jun-jun riff).
Step 2 or: The Time When the Funny Bits Lose Their Spark and the Music Hasn‘t Hit You Yet: The samples wear out their welcome and the novelty factor loses its element of surprise, leaving you with a three or four spin period where nothing is working. (Listen one: That sample was awesome! This is so much fun! Listen five: Back in the CD case you go).
Step 3 or: The Brain Now Comprehends, But is it too Late?: Finally, around the tenth listen, your ears become accustomed to the maelstrom and you start to differentiate riffs. But, who wants to wait that long and overcome the “dead period“? Well, uh, me, I guess. Reason: It’s fun. And that’s my two word review. It’s fun. Questions? I’ll take ‘em:
So, when you say 21st century grind, you mean-
Exactly, the mix you’re thinking of. The current period Pig Destroyer-esque been-through-the-filter thrashy riffs, the Curl Up and Die-like metalcore meets grind-capital-CORE drive, the Tyranny of Shaw-influenced let’s-just-mix-‘em-up trashcore philosophy, and the kind of on-the-border sittin’ that bands like Combatwoundedvetran or Phoenix Bodies have perfected (Is it grind, insert prefix-violence, speedy metalcore, etc.?) all blended together. Blasts, blasts, and blasts. Purists may retch, but thar be no obnoxious hipster meat on dem bones, besides the-
Indeed, mostly of the cheesy action variety. Schwarzenegger, Willis, all here. In the movies, they’re funny. Out of context, they can coax liquids of your nostrils. Never forget that Graf Orlock is made up of, as stated in their bio, “avant-garde 1980’s B movie film addicts.” They’re the kind of guys that probably want their lives catalogued like it’s an IMDB goof page. You know, the kind of guys that are always there with a shit-goes-boom one liner for every occasion. But, their allegiance to what most would call celluloid low culture is their main selling point, the reason why I think they’re so damn enjoyable. These eyes have seen the 24 frames per second of, say, Aliens many-a-time, and just hearing their ode to Bill Paxton’s over-the-topness rekindles long-dormant memories of quoting/acting this stuff out with friends. It’s in the same boat, at least.
So, you like it, then?
Here’s the thing, why I’m a living contradiction, and why me none write good: Musically, no, not really. I already have albums like this (Ed Gein keeps coming to mind. Grinders, you may punch me in the snotbox for even bringing it up) and I’m not really in the market for another one. Graf Orlock doesn’t do enough on the musical side of the equation to really keep me interested, to make me want to dissect these sections to see what’s going on below the surface (It wasn’t until I listened to this, maybe, twenty times straight that I started to come around, something I’d never do if I wasn’t reviewing this). But, to dissect it would be missing the point. You might notice that all the reasons that I do like this are reasons that fall outside the musical spectrum. I like their attitude, I like their sense of humor (especially at the end of “The Dream Left Behind.” Gold! I won’t ruin it!), and I like the ideas behind these songs. Finally, I like it because it’s something that I can listen to and laugh at with friends, a sort of social grind experience that never asks you to dig too deep. To hammer home my one lame point, it’s fun. If that’s what you’re looking for, here it is. Last question? Yes, you in the back.
Are you ever going to write a review that isn’t in the voice of an incoherent, rambling hobo?
Shhh. But…uh, really…can ya spare some change, brother?