The big thing missing from the majority of oughts rock was drama, plain and simple. I don’t mean real-life drama, necessarily, like overdoses and feuds and breakups and uncharacteristically horrible sophomore albums-although I guess there wasn’t all that much of that either-but musical drama, chills, bands that sound like murder. I can think of a couple of reasons for this backlash against laying on the terror: the first might be the Frankensteining of emo early in the decade into something that would make any post-pubescent person blush; the second, nu-Indie’s clinical passiveness, that narcotized monotone that now runs through every hipster’s bloodstream like a Joy Division bassline. It’s regrettable, really. If one genre oversold the art of feeling bad, then the other undersold the cathartic potential of bombast. The situation is almost Freudian in its logic: unable to adequately confront lived trauma through music, our emotionality has regressed, seriously, to the level of very small children. Check, Animal Collective connects on the basis that their songs are the audio equivalent of finger paintings; check, Lightning Bolt’s dense and manic album art; check, the talent reservoir feeding the Where the Wild Things Are soundtrack. It’s not really a musical problem, but a mass-cultural one: everything from the popularity of Wes Anderson to the resurgence of tights to the Web virus of adorable cat pictures to the apotheosis of the graphic novel are all indicators that our generation is retreating, with varying degrees of pathology, to the pillow fort. Instead of the bold and the beautiful, we have the fey and the cute. Instead of the Mamas and the Papas, an incestuous fake family who burned and choked publicly, we had the White Stripes, a brother and sister who got divorced. It’s the key metaphor: Bury the horror, get back to the playground.
What this all leads up to, I guess, is that Lil Daggers, a fairly accurately self-proclaimed garage psych group from Miami, are pretty awesome. What’s more, their messy, catchy, cocaine-demon style of songwriting is the antithesis of all that is kid-friendly in the emphatically adult world of American pop music. That drama you’ve been craving? These guys have it bottled. We’re not talking over-the-top, pantomiming, Killers shit, either. These two tracks are almost platonically scary, like the dank armpit of a bouncer at an off-shore casino, or a pile of syringes, only one of which contains anything you would consider jacking into your body. Falling somewhere between the Cramps (minus camp spookiness) and some band you’ve never heard of…er, falling somewhere between the MC5 on different drugs and an electrical storm…ok, falling somewhere between Lou Reed and Stockhausen…
But in all seriousness, there isn’t a lot comparisons can help you surmise about this band, precisely because their appeal lies less in the uniqueness of their sonic vision -a healthy dose of punk and rockabilly, twangs of surf and noisy _kosmiche-_than the characteristic snarl that vision happens to be imbued with. You won’t find a dirtier record this year, a blaster that’s equal parts party jam and depressive drive to the coast, urine streaked dive and strip glitz for miles upon diamond miles.
A-side “King Korpse,” off the probably not accurately quoted, but brilliantly named Unmastered Dungeon Sesh II, has a 40 second intro of lugubrious minor chords and cornball organ, the rock parallel to the lit fuse leading into the crypt. It’s a builder, the sort of song that lets you know what’s coming (goofball dancing, shots all around, grave robbing, etc.) long before it actually delivers. Talk about drama! You want instant gratification? Get a ringtone. Like a galvanized bit of taxidermy, the track comes to life in a predictably grimy, undeniably satisfying way: fuzz-filtered vocals, a noodly lead guitar riff, double time snare thwacks. It’s fantastic, like watching the opening credits to an ancient biker flick only to realize slowly, ineffably, that all the action is taking place live, right now, in your driveway.
B-side “Ya Tu Sabe,” backs up its hubristic title with a set of opening bars so simultaneously menacing and invigorating, it’s hard to decide whether to head for the fridge for a comfort snack or start shadowboxing. This thing stalks like a feral beast, all the while maintaining a woozy funhouse swirl that leaves you nauseous and loving it. Shambolic does not begin to describe the chaos that ensues. Sure, it’s all tight enough, but just listen to that blasting arc of crash cymbals and skid-mark guitar and some thick gauze of hiss and crackle that makes it sound like the record was pressed on a mud cake rather than any kind of archive-grade material. If the Mission Impossible tape self-destructed in thirty seconds, Lil Daggers’s music doesn’t even wait for you to finish hearing it before it starts spinning itself to pieces.
From Big Star to Lil Wayne, Big Black to Fats Waller, the best adjective-noun band names don’t discriminate between the relative importance of the first and second term. Where the noun is fact, the adjective is commentary, always crucial for placing the artist in context. Lil Daggers is no different. If drama is for kids, these kids flash the knives and get to work.
https://ampeater.s3.amazonaws.com/aem104/01 King Korpze.mp3
Ya Tu Sabe
https://ampeater.s3.amazonaws.com/aem104/02 Ya Tu Sabe.mp3