Wild Mercury Sound

Fuck Buttons, plus more on Vampire Weekend

John Mulvey

I’ve just been reading your comments on yesterday’s Vampire Weekend blog – thanks for those. They helped me crystallise my thoughts about that much-vaunted African influence on the album. What’s interesting, I think, is not that they draw on African sounds, but how they point up the affinities between that spindly, melodically cartwheeling guitar sound and the indie-rock tradition.

One of the chief pleasures of “Vampire Weekend” is that the absorption of African influences seems relatively effortless – that it doesn’t clash with the prevailing collegiate aesthetic. There’s occasional flashes of self-consciousness – the title of “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” being the most blatant.

But unlike, say, Paul Simon’s “Graceland”, which keeps getting wheeled out as a reference point, the African influence seems mainly just a sound they love to throw into the cultural mix, rather than being used to make an explicit cultural point. It’s a minor point of interpretation, I guess, but it might turn out to be a mildly significant one with regard to the way people are introduced to African and African-influenced music; not as African, just as music.

And while we’re on the subject, does anyone remember The Red Guitars? I have a couple of albums at home which I can’t have played in 20 years, but I’ve a vague memory that they were doing something slightly similar, albeit in a much less graceful and artful way.

Anyway, today’s record is rinsing out our heads right now. It’s called “Street Horrrsing” (nope, don’t know what it means, sorry), and it’s by a duo called Fuck Buttons, which I must admit charms me no end. Fuck Buttons appear to be associates of Mogwai, since John Cummings produced this fantastic debut album. But rather than majestically peaking post-rock, their music seems to be a kind of mellow noise; distorted drone-rock and fractious electronic ambience, with the requisite post-Boredoms addition of tribal drums.

It reminds me most of the excellent Growing (who have a good new album out on Social Registry that I’ve shamefully neglected to blog about), and of Black Dice around the time of “Beaches And Canyons”, my favourite album of theirs by some distance. There’s a great sequence on “Street Horrrsing” which runs from “Ribs Out” – pounding drums, clicking bones, the odd yelp – through the clunky ritualistic fuzz-electronica of “Okay, Let’s Talk About Magic”, then climaxes with the sepulchral white noise hum of “Race You To The Bedroom”, built on vast churchy doom chords and what sounds like a indignant black metal vocalist chuntering away deep in the feedback.

I guess that’s the Mogwai connection: a way of taking the basic, derided vocabulary of metal and making something avant-garde and, at times, transcendently beautiful out of it.


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