Do You Feel the Guilt?
An offhand comment I made in the forums led me to fire up Rorschach's Autopsy this morning, interrupting the badly-stalled Reviewing Everything...Near the Stereo project. (Update: there is now more stuff stacked up near the stereo.) While I will cop to a some nostalgia here - I first heard this band because they shared a split 7" with Neanderthal; I am nostalgic indeed for the days when Neanderthal splits weren't history, but news - I don't think that's all of it. After all: I wasn't really that young when I first heard Rorschach; the music that soundtracked my teenage kicks sported bigger hair & more makeup than most Gern Blandsten bands did.
But there was something going on in the early nineties, and if it's nostalgia to say so, then I'm guilty of it, as much as it pains me to say so. (I hope it goes without saying that if we had a slogan here, it'd be "nostalgia is toxic.") Complexity had always been something of a bad word in punk rock - moral complexity, sure; aesthetic ambiguities, political ones, too, why not; but short-fast-loud, that was the rule. Against this, Rorscach took an audible love of Greg Ginn's macho Sabbath-isms and turbocharged it with real depth. That they'd spent their earlier years listening to thrash seems apparent, but the days of crossover were already passed by the time they came on the scene, so there was no place else to turn but inward. They sounded very interested in reconciling the mandate to Get Pissed Off (a mandate which, in 2009, seems no less obedient to institutional norms than "Conform" or "Get a Job") with ideas of beauty: specifically, the idea that beauty is what I say it is, and that any aesthetics worth its weight in vinyl will boast some coherent notion of beauty that it can truly call its own. You can't really say this of their predecessors. Rorschach brought their own dice to the game and proceeded to roll them, spectacularly.
They weren't the only band working this side of the street back then - there really did seem to be something in the air - but their impact seems to have been possibly the greatest (it's hard to imagine metalcore without them, for better and worse) and their music has taken on a pretty lustrous patina. Is it the guitar tone? the tempo shifts and unabashed rolling fills? those super-sweet bass breaks? the vocals, which always sound like they're going through a chorus pedal? I don't know; it's the vibe, you know, like I'm always wanting to say - the groove, the feeling, the character. The voice. Not of the singer but of the band. The footprint. The signature. They had something nobody had then and that nobody's got now, which makes listening to them less an exercise in nostalgia than a celebration of a quality that exists outside of nostalgia or engagement and above past and present. They had an idea. I won't claim for it some huge historical resonance. I will claim individuality for it, though, and that's enough to make their strongest tracks throb with a dark energy all their own.
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