Dead Beats for Live Girls

Just before this picture was taken, Matt Hart tried to coerce a horse into singing the harmonies on the Russian Futurists record. Politely, the horse declined. Here, Hart sulks in silence.
Courtesy of Upper Class
Russian Futurists
Let's Get Ready to Crumble
Upper Class

Pop music is my hardcore. That and a "fuck you" is my fuck you. You can keep your Ambient Violence, your Gangster Baroque, your Power Dub. Meaning for me is made in three-and-a-half-minute pop songs that distill the terrible and beautiful structures underpinning my pedestrian existence--the idiot webs, the dead-end mazes, the networks of connection that drift into the periphery. A great pop song is something at once deeper than an analogy and more human than abstraction. The Futurists' Matt Hart takes a better stab at a definition, castrating the cynics in the very first lines of Let's Get Ready to Crumble (Upper Class): "I do pop 'cause that's where my heart goes, I don't call it art, no sir/That denotes that when I wrote it I had other motives and/We're never saying what we mean, it's all silver screens."

Like Brian Wilson before him, Hart isn't merely pining for a lost girlfriend-never-to-be; his songs are attempts to construct one single-handedly out of sheer sound. "It's Actually Going to Happen" is pure Beach Boy tragedy: He's not wishing for love, just that a girl will believe it might conceivably happen between them on some remote plane. We know it won't. The whole sad Frankenstein prospect is futile. No wonder Brian went insane: For his efforts at realizing his ideal wife in Pet Sounds, he was left with a million dollars and a dead bride whose tombstone was a humiliating picture of him petting goats. The airwaves at least provided a graveyard for other songwriters' dead girlfriends; Brian wasn't even sure where to leave the flowers. Neither is Hart. On "When the Sun Drops Like an Anvil," he sings, "I've been...trying to see you in LCD displays and flashing lights while building you a tiny glass maze"--a compact disc?--"that you could keep within your palm." It's ghost sonography, the washed-out voices coming in distant orchestral swells like the sound of a seashell held to your ear.

Then come the jarring shotgun blasts that punctuate the end of "Your Life on Magnetic Tape," the album's swan song. Are they the cannon reports from Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture, the gravitas of some moral victory too huge for mere percussion or fireworks? Or are they the death knells of a Lou Barlow figure, pulling the trigger of a 12-gauge with his pinky toe, his Zoloft-saturated brain tissue spattering the tape reels in a final, literal act of getting it all out? I like to think the barrel is aimed at the collective forehead of a music industry that does everything in its power to suppress, co-opt, and corrupt the vision of the desolate individualist, the little man who can only realize a landscape of pain and failure, commodities somewhat less useful or valuable to a multinational corporation than anthrax futures. Radio is dead, while Hart's creations "still get chills when Paul sings 'Golden Slumbers,'" even in their sonic afterworld. If you don't, you're deader than magnetic tape.

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