April 21, 2004

Building Press "Young Money"

I find it quite funny that shortly after I wrote a review that began with paragraph praising Michigan record label 54’40” or Fight as one of the most consistent indie-rock labels going, the label threw me a curveball by sending a record like this to us. This is, hands down, the most difficult 54’40” release I’ve heard so far, and that’s no small feat for a label whose roster doesn’t have many radio-friendly artists to begin with. I normally don’t brainwash myself into liking a record by listening to it over and over again. I can tell whether a record is going to stay in my collection within three listens at most. Young Money, however, is an exception. Upon first listen, I hated it, but something told me to keep coming back to it. Weeks later, I’m just beginning to understand what this Seattle trio is trying to do with its music, and thus I feel comfortable enough recommending this record to the more adventurous folks among this site’s readership.

The record begins with guitarist AP Schroder hollering the words “You’re like the punch line to a bad joke” through a megaphone before his rhythm section launches into a taut, staccato three-note groove. The band only takes fifteen seconds to plant itself firmly into the “acquired taste” category when Schroder starts unleashing vocalizations that could only be called “singing” by a WIDE stretch of the imagination (hell, even the album’s LINER NOTES admit this). Frankly, his vocals sound like an angry drunk arguing with an invisible man. They switch between arrhythmic screaming and barely audible mumbling, with just a few actual notes sprinkled here and there to remind us that these are actually SONGS, and not just field recordings of an angry drunk with some Slint-sational background music attached. The first song, called “It’s Probably Just You,” is divided into three sections: the first being the aforementioned three-note groove, the second a snippet of muscular surf-rock, and the third a jazzy, atonal waltz. As many times as the song switches gears, it’s still nothing new to those who are familiar with the 54’40” roster (or with math-rock in general), so it’s left up to Schroeder and his voice to give the Building Press its own distinct quirk.

Fortunately, the Building Press isn’t content merely to let the music coast by while Schroeder smears his vocal diarrhea all over it. There are many moments throughout the record in which the music imitates the vocals by completely losing control of concepts like key, tempo, and meter. The verses of “Operator Manipulator” find the band dragging the end of each bar slower and slower, only to pick the tempo back up each time the descending chord progression repeats itself. If there was a musical approximation of a prostrate man hurtling himself atop each step of an ascending staircase with all the might he has left, this song is it. “If You Think I Can’t Get to You…You’re Wrong” features intentionally clumsy guitar strumming that sounds like Schroeder’s fingers are caught between the strings, and can’t get them out. “Far above the Trees” features whammy-bar excursions far harsher and woozier than anything My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields could imagine. During the intro to “Textures,” soothing bass guitar harmonics are interrupted by streams of hollering and feedback that sounds as if they were miked half a room away. It sounds as if bassist Jeffery Woodke is practicing in his studio booth, unaware of the torture that Schroeder is putting himself through on the other side.

Of course, nothing I’ve written so far in this review will convince anyone with a sound mind to pick this record up. However, I know that I am not the ONLY person in the world who thinks that a record that sounds like Steve Albini having a nervous breakdown in the middle of a Shellac show would be something worth listening to more than once. If this is your idea of a good and rocking time, by all means cough up your young money and buy this record. The rest of you have been warned. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to find a designated driver to take Schroder home before the bartender calls the cops…

---Sean Padilla

Label Website: http://www.fiftyfourfortyorfight.com
Artist Website: http://www.thebuildingpress.com

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