Saturday, 27 December 2014

The End Of Silence - Rollins Band

Three things become very clear within the first couple of minutes of listening to this album: that
Henry Rollins can't sing in anything resembling the conventional manner. that the Rollins Band are a fantastic collective of musicians, and that Henry Rollins is an outstanding lyricist. After a couple more tracks it becomes even more clear that words like "alternative" and "rock" really don't do credit to the sounds being created, as the usage of jazz, funk, and noise experimentation push beyond what had, even in the heyday of the Alternative 90's, was becoming a defined and codified genre. This is primal stuff, what Miles Davis could have made if he had discovered a Marshal stack or what John Lennon may have done were he born 20 years later. Lean, powerful, disciplined, and out to destroy so that it can rebuild you in your own image. You will have two reactions to this album: you'll either turn off the music from ill-ease or sit and feel the hairs on your neck twitching up.

Lyrically there are two main themes: improving your lot in life and the ills of love. Opener "Low Self Opinion" is an anthem to faux angst and the call to becoming all you can be, whilst "Another Life" is a call to recognise the life you are leading whatever it may be. On the other side of the anger coin "Tearing" is a song for when all the love has flushed out of the relationship and "Blues Jam" is primal scream therapy for the terminally resilient, with the howled refrain "life won't break your heart, it'll crush it" managing to sound dignified rather than the petulant or  overwrought angst that someone who hadn't lived through it all would of presented. Musically there is one main theme: slow, steady and powerful. It goes at the speed it needs to, never breaking into a sprint but never walking along. Tempos change and melodies switch, but everything is done as is needed with zero fat in the sound. Everything is where it needs to be, nothing sounds flashy in the way that only precision musicianship can allow. This is a jaguar of a band, prowling with restraint and confidence. With the two elements put together it's a titanic sound, a rumble of power and majesty.

That this album could get so much acclaim twenty-two years ago and still sound as fresh and vital as it does now is it's true testament. By working outside of trends and fashions, by being such a definitive statement of it's own makers (and quite possibly Henry Rollins greatest post-Black Flag musical work), it has manged to neither age nor weaken. I would encourage anyone who has the slightest interest in what rock can be, in finding out the sounds and rhythms that can be forged from the deceptively simple line up of drums and guitars and in lyrics that can be personal and triumphant without reveling, to give this the listen that you have been missing from you life.
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