Thursday, November 15, 2007

"Rock and Roll is a thing that needs to die"

Spend enough time near me and you’ll hear the words “Mr.” and “Bungle” used, as well as “greatest band ever.” Having popped Disco Volante back into my veins last week, I feel I am hearing the record for the first time, as little facets of the multi-tracked masterpiece re-reveal themselves to me while I drive through Chicago and many points nearby. To say they are (or were) my favorite band is an understatement.

I use the term “Mr. Bungle” as an umbrella to shelter the many, many spin-offs, side projects that became main projects, productions, compositions, live covers, rumors and other obscurities that mostly center around Mike Patton, Trey Spruance, and Trevor Dunn, the core of Bungle, if you will. (I wish I knew more about what Bär McKinnon is up to.) To list a few of the entities that fall under my catch-all term: Secret Chiefs 3, Fantomas, Trevor Dunn’s Trio Convulsant, Tomahawk, Maldoror, Lovage, Faith No More . . . those are just a few, there are more, mostly spewing from the prolific Patton and his Ipecac label (most recently the disappointing Peeping Tom).

Now that we have that established, let’s move on to the reason for this post.

I was looking at some You Tube clips last night of Mr. Bungle, which led me to look up some interviews this morning. I found a few with Trey Spruance, one of which I found very interesting:

And another:

Maybe these are not so compelling to anyone else who stumbles on this here blog, but there are parts of these that made me realize a lot about my own pursuits and half-assed attempts at the whole creative thing. Mostly that a level of study is important but equally so is a level of experience and involvement, little of which can be found in academia, and that the necessary level of commitment comes from a passion that can never be manufactured. And so a tailspin occurred and I began to ask important questions none of which I’ll get into now, thank you very much. (This dovetails with my man DC who recently quoted Cormac McCarthy and a little bit about doing what you love or else.)

Before this devolves completely and becomes a silly elevation of an amateur’s ego manifesting in some quasi-spiritually connected bullshit, let me just state that I found the words of Mr. Spruance to be very inspiring today, as I long have.

This is part of why I think the Secret Chiefs 3 are the most interesting, dare I say important, band working today. The brainchild of Spruance—really it’s him covering or composing and arranging every song, not to mention producing them in the studio and then releasing it on his label, which employs no one but him—the Secret Chiefs 3 sprang from Mr. Bungle as a side project that has morphed into Spruance’s obsession. The band is not really a band but a rotating roster of musicians who help to interpret his vision. And what a vision. Aide from the music, and that is huge, there’s a philosophy, goddammit. The symbols and semiotics that accompany the records, most notably the latest and maybe greatest of their efforts, Book of Horizons, contributes greatly to the overall philosophical link between music and knowledge, or music and meditation, or, to be very fucking ethereal, music and pure energy—in short music and the essence of life. How’s that strike you? If it don’t, I pity you and ask that you remain in your cave and stay out of my way. [Back to the point, should one materialize.] The cerebral elements are in abundance on Book of Horizons, should anyone choose to decode them. I have not. The symbols are dense, my mind is finite. But I can speak about the music.

Or can I? What can I say that would intelligently relate what Spruance and Co. have done on this record or any? Not a goddamn thing. In the interviews, the man speaks of the tired compression of the critics that tend toward descriptions of Middle Eastern music meets Morricone meets surf meets this meets that, none of which is entirely wrong but all of which is very boring. To render their sound in such trite manners devalues the accomplishment. Stop, music critics, stop.

I will venture this: the thing about every post-Bungle band or record is that they contain some elements of what I loved about Bungle, but usually sacrifice one for another. Better put: Fantomas is endlessly entertaining and the Trio Convulsant is intellectually stimulating, but the Secret Chiefs 3 are both at once. And emotionally impacting, to boot. This was the case with Bungle, though this is not to say that the Chiefs and Bungle are necessarily the same in any way. Like a beautiful child that grew into a brilliant adult, Bungle died and the Chiefs live. Let’s hope it’s a long life.

The distillation of philosophy, passion, technical proficiency, fearless creativity and awe inspiring production leaves me with no other option than to proclaim the Secret Chiefs 3 the best of whatever and the what-have-you of everything. In short, I wish the rest of the world were as perfect as their cover of “Exodus.”