California trio Kill Me Tomorrow’s debut full-length, The Garbageman and the Prostitute, is equal parts rock album and art project. The first thing you’ll notice about it is the grotesque, pastel-colored artwork, which contains blood-speckled renderings of deformed humans and rabid animals. Then, there’s the accompanying DVD, which features videos of three of the album’s songs. Last but not least, there are the liner notes, which contain paragraph-long explanations of each song’s lyrical content. The album is based on a novel of the same name that KMT singer/drummer Zack Wentz is currently working on. Like most concept albums, the concept doesn’t make much literal sense. For instance, here is the full explanation of the third track, “Xerox My Hand”:
“The war is on. A young private, trapped alone in an office high rise building his departed platoon had been using as a base, begins documenting his body on a copy machine only to find he can now see into the minds of those who once worked there and, perhaps, into the future.”
If you’ve already dismissed KMT as a bunch of surrealist loonies by this point, don’t ever let me find a copy of the Who’s Tommy in your record collection. Besides, the liner notes are helpful in making the songs more decipherable. Otherwise, we’d only have Zack’s voice to go by, and most of the time it’s buried in so much distortion that every breath he takes into the microphone sounds like a tornado. What few intelligible lyrics there are reveal themes of paranoia and sexual depravity.
“This is the last time I’ll go outside,” Zack repeats in the song “This is a Movie.” Another song begins with the couplet, “I require chocolate and lots of it/Saw your face in a magazine and I jacked off to it.” If album closer “Born to be Filed” is supposed to be the moment when “the mysterious doctor speaks” (according to the liner notes), he’s not the most scrupulous doctor. At one point, it seems as if he’s recalling an encounter with the eponymous prostitute.
"I have the car keys,” the doctor says. “I have a hard-on!”
“What do you pay for this?” asks the prostitute. “Get a taste of this!”
Needless to say, Kill Me Tomorrow aren’t the most family-friendly band on the planet, but they back their amoral decadence up with some of the most frightening and intense music I’ve heard so far this year.
Album opener “The Best Siren is a Flesh Siren” begins with about 30 seconds of guitar noise that sounds like an air-raid siren. However, when guitarist Dan Wise starts playing actual notes, the tone remains pretty much the same. Dan switches from single-note riffs to machine-like noise during the climactic moments of each song. Wentz’s slurred mumbling makes the 90 Day Men’s Brian Case sound comparatively crisp, but his drumming is considerably more energetic. With a kit that blends traditional percussion with an array of electronic triggers, Wentz’s drumming suggests what four-on-the-floor house music would sound like at a Native American powwow. K8 Wince, who also did the album’s artwork, holds everything together with distorted bass lines that can occasionally sound like detonating bombs, and backs Wentz up with a caterwaul that sounds like Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon being chased by Freddy Krueger.
All in all, Kill Me Tomorrow have a disturbing and original sound that could be described in two ways. They could either be what Xiu Xiu would sound like if possessed by pre-apocalyptic panic instead of suicidal depression, or they could be a cybernetic update of Confusion Is Sex-era Sonic Youth. As talented as the band is in other forms of media, it’s good to know that their experiments with visual and literary art haven’t come at the expense of the music. Even if they hadn’t provided so many signposts as to the actual concept behind it, the music would still get your blood racing, and possibly even compel you to dance!