Lightning Bolt: Wonderful Rainbow
Rumbling up from a Rhode Island underground where grown men amuse themselves with funny animal comic books and Slayer records with gunk crusted in the grooves, Lightning Bolt has become the standard bearer for a new indie scene where twee whimsy meets noisy pummeling head on. Fittingly, Wonderful Rainbow, the duo's third album, isn't exactly what you would call a maturity move. The basic setup--bass and drums played by two gorillas on uppers--remains the same as for their first two records. But gone are the disengaging freeform sprawl of their '97 self-titled debut and the Residents' chirp and oblique strategizing of 2001's Ride The Skies. If no-wave was never metal enough for you (or if metal never broke out into blubbering abstraction frequently enough), think of Wonderful Rainbow as Lightning Bolt's answer to Metallica's Black Album--an attempt to capture the bone-saw qualities of their live show, in-studio. All it's missing is Bob Rock on production and a few grunge ballads.
And radio friendliness, of course. On each of the ten tracks, the LB premise--a great big belch of joy--is restated heroically. Drummer Brian Chippendale is Bonham gone drum 'n' bass, or maybe Sunny Murray gone grindcore. This improbable two-limbed being unleashes a fusillade of blast beats, arrhythmic rolls, anthemic pounding, and 300-mph hairpin turns (when not sputtering out into a ditch). The other Brian--bassist Gibson, who delivers his strangulated fairy vocals from a microphone embedded in his gimp mask--blows speakers as a matter of course. His instrument acts as (occasional) melody, rhythmic anchor, and six-string noise generator, humming and buzzing like gigantic Tibetan bees.
The combination roars up and out of nowhere, bludgeoning you into a grin. And then it does it again. And again. And again. None of it is pretty, and your mom would hate it. But then, like the duo's mixture of cartoon tomfoolery and wised-up (but not wise) juvenilia, that's kind of the point. Lightning Bolt's two Brians know that the way out of indie rock's supposed impasse of grown-up tedium and English Lit lyricism is to make the genre sound more like itself--sloppy arrhythmic drums, yelps, crusty noise and all. To get it back to the Dungeons & Dragons, Jolt Cola, and homemade skate ramps that inspired it in the first place. It's an album of nonsense and sensibility. And the LP sounds great at all known speeds.
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