It (is) It) Critical Band
By: Eric G.
At first you think "oh, Jesus, not another Chicago-based band of wank-officers trying to pull that whole U.S. Maple bullshit on me again", but further listening shuts your fat mouth before you utter something like that out loud. 90 Day Men don't pander to hooks or melody or even form for that matter. This would be difficult listening if it weren't for the rock. Yeah, these guys listened to the Birthday Party a lot, but they're not trying to be the Birthday Party. There is a difference.
Some songs tend to meander too long, but there's a payoff most of the time. Half-spoken/half-slurred vocals always mix well with discordant guitars. The lyrics are a stream of consciousness blend of anger and apathy. Bands like this usually just make you tired because it's such a chore to sit through all the bullshit- all that waiting to get to the good parts, but 90 Day Men mix up the angular punk formula with artsy no wave to keep your ears from drifting off.
With two seven-inches and two EP's under its belt, the band added a fourth member on keyboards to the line-up for its debut album. The result is a paranoid blast of clanging guitars, methodical bass lines, and syncopated drums. The songs are convoluted and shift in unexpected directions, and you never know when the guitars are about to squeal. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to the sequencing either. The songs are so tricky in and of themselves that order becomes irrelevant.
"Missouri Kids Cuss" sounds like a very frustrated Unwound with its bleating guitars and snaky bass lines. Background vocals pop up out of nowhere and rarely repeat themselves. It makes you wonder what kind of drugs it takes to come up with this stuff. This band has to be amazing live. There's no way to fake your way through it. "From One Primadonna To Another" takes discordance to new levels. The bored vocal affectation surprisingly doesn't wear thin.
"Hans Lucas" is one of the more accessible songs on (It (Is) It) Critical Band, and it's laced with dub sound effects, spoken word samples, and nerve-racking guitar chords. The vocals morph from some strange falsetto into a French-sounding Mark E. Smith. Amazing. Somehow the spoken word bit in "Exploration Vs. Solution, Baby" doesn't sound even remotely pretentious. Is it irony? Is it schtick? Probably neither. 90 Day Men won't leave anyone on the fence. You'll know in about ten seconds if this is your bag or not. This isn't music you hum; it's music you turn up loudly.