How does My Disco top Cancer, that exercise in harsh, mechanical, angular, minimalist rock music? Well, by becoming harsher, more mechanical, more angular and manifestly more minimalist than one could imagine possible.
"|," the first song, is a statement of purpose: essentially, the same note is struck again and again with a little percussion thrown in for good measure. This, then, becomes a rough template for the rest to come on Paradise — the bass hitting one or two notes, often in odd meter, the drums crashing along with mind-boggling precision and the guitars producing all sorts of ungodly noise.
The high point, the zenith, is the excellent "An Even Sun," which drags out the formula to just over nine minutes. The bass hits one note — perhaps two, a semitone apart — in a jarring rhythm, which is kept by drums with clinical accuracy. A touch of vocals at the start, and then it's just a mess of feedback, distortion and noise...
Obviously, this isn't the sweet pop record that Cancer was, and the final result is actually quite harsh and alienating. Fortunately, this works extremely well for My Disco, and Paradise is a triumph, the sort of record I suspect right-minded people will be trying to track down twenty years from now.
Eight out of the ten songs on this record feature vocals, though you'd be forgiven for thinking that it is was mostly an instrumental affair. The brief, fractured poems of Cancer are gone now and have been replaced by, if you can believe it, even less.
The second song, for example, "You Came to Me Like a Cancer Lain Dormant Until it Blossomed Like a Rose," only manages to get as far as, "You came to...," before the guitars kick in; "/," the third song, repeats only "The less I see, the closer I feel" a few times — and these are the songs that are vocally dense! In "German for Attention," the singer sings, "settle" once or twice, and in "A Christ Pendent Comfort Her Neck," for example, he more or less just spells out the title of the song. In short, in much the same way that the music has been simplified, so have the vocals — they no longer seem to carry a story — and certainly none is remotely discernable. The vocals have now become the same experiment in repetition and droning as the music.
Paradise was recorded by Steve Albini, and, as always, he has managed to get a terrific sound for the band. In fact, it would be hard to imagine a more appropriate engineer for this type of record given both Albini's previous engineering efforts and his own musical output.
This thing is going for just over twenty dollars, and if you like your music a little dissonant, a little radical, then you certainly can't go wrong.
Reviewed on Tuesday, 25 March 2008