Introducing Blues Control
Release date: May 29, 2007
Curb Your Cynicism is a recurring blogtastic feature in which the music editor pithily enthuses about new releases and reissues he thinks will enhance your life and erode your cynicism about the state of music, circa now.
Any band with “Blues” in its name in 2007 should be viewed with suspicion. Chances are they'll be overly ironic or excruciatingly purist. Either way, they're probably not gonna be worth your time. That being said, Queens, New York's Blues Control obliterate my little pet theory with their debut album on the estimable Holy Mountain Records.
Consisting of keyboardist Lea Cho and guitarist/sound manipulator Russ Waterhouse, Blues Control are to their hoary namesake genre what Jamie Lidell is to soul music: a brilliant mutational aberration. Disc opener “Blues Control” sounds like a Blue Cheer song run through a newfangled digital signal processing unit set to GROTESQUE. Right away, we know this isn't going to be your typical exercise in heavy-rock worship. “Boiled Peanuts” is surprisingly pretty, albeit in a strangely distant and warped way. A spluttering motor forms the beat, the guitar sounds like a duck squawking in glorious agony, and a two-chord piano motif mesmerizes like Bill Evans in a Sufi trance. These somewhat unpromising elements coalesce into one of the album's best tracks. It's neither fish nor fowl, for which I, being vegan, give thanks. “Migration” evokes the dewy melodic splendor and transformative drone power of German immortals Popol Vuh. “The Blue Sheep” could be a bent-brained remix of David Bowie's “Art Decade.” “No Sweat” starts off heart-rendingly gorgeous and slightly reminiscent of Brian Eno's “Here Come the Warm Jets” until a gut-wrenching, seesawing, downtuned guitar riff barges in and takes things to Butthole Surfers' bad-trip basement of bloated hallucinations. The reverbed percussion solo at the end is a perfectly unexpected kiss-off.
Blues Control know rock and blues history, and they condemn themselves to fuck with these genres till they're barely recognizable. With sly, sinister intent, they refurbish them into bizarre new forms. In a way, Blues Control perform the same task—but with heavier atmospheric pressure and rock crunch—that the Residents have been doing for over three decades: making the familiar seem utterly alien. You can't say that the familiar didn't have it coming. . . .