Album by Fuck Buttons
I’m not entirely sure what a Fuck Button is. As a noun, it could be what you press in times of distress. As a simple statement, it perhaps expresses a preference for zippers. With an added comma, it denotes that a preference for zippers has been denied: “Fuck, buttons.” As a band, however, Fuck Buttons is something entirely different.
Let’s view the spectrum of music. On the one side you have pop, characterized by its simplicity, melody and rhythm, on the other side, noise — relentless, dissonant, complex. These are blazing generalizations of course, but if we were for the sake of convenient categorization to take them as truths, we could conclude that Fuck Buttons is clearly neither. Because Fuck Buttons defies categorization. It’s extremely inconvenient. It’s uncomfortable, it’s tense, but it’s engaging. Like a keystone conjoining the arched realms of pop and noise, Fuck Buttons bridges the chasm that few have attempted spanning: the dark depths of nihilistic bliss-outs, of apocalyptic choral-pop, of joyously oscillating drone. This is what happens when heshers fall in love with Mogwai.
With six tracks spanning approximately 50 minutes, the Bristol group’s latest release, Street Horrrsing, is looping and repetitive, but never predictable. Employing the same tricks in each track, every new progression wraps loosely around itself on the larger circular path that encompasses the entire work. Rather than clear chords, Street Horrrsing has fuzzed-out synth and organs. Tribal beats loop around themselves, building and building and finally breaking into discordant, indistinguishable metal lyrics and punk-rock birdcalls. Within the span of the 10-minute “Okay, Let’s Talk About Magic,” you’re exposed to overdriven synths, echoing chimes and blown out Dino Sommese-style distress calls that punctuate the ebbing drone. If you haven’t zoned out, you may suspect it’s gone on too long, as it just barely crosses the line of overdone. As a relief, three minutes in, the beat comes like a master hand reaching out to gather the loose ends, pulling them together into a continuous, fuzzed-out rhythm that slowly grows. A minute later it’s impossible not to dance. The organ shines through the white noise with drawn out chords clearing away the fuzz like neon cobwebs. Abruptly, the synth is upped to 11, and you begin to feel the song in terms of blocks, like little movements stacked on top of each other higher and higher as you wait for it to all come crumbling down. By minute eight the tower is distressed, swaying from side to side as the CB-radio screams resume … but rather than toppling, it melts down into a droning, noisy loop ushering in the next sputtering, pulsating track.
Ten minutes more brings you up to “Bright Tomorrow,” the album’s revelation track, as it forges ahead with a steady 4/4 beat, hallelujah organ-chords ringing bright. It’s the relief you wait for for the entire album as it epically fades into the final block, “Colours Move,” whose arrangements of tricks and samples shared in common with track one bring it all full circle.
I’m not looking to discredit Fuck Buttons by delineating influences, but there are similarities with several artists on different levels worth mentioning: The loping, feral cries of Animal Collective, whom Buttons imitate through a Fisher Price toy mic run backwards through a blown amp for purposes of noisy finesse. Then there’s the obvious eclecticism of Black Dice, the intensity of Yellow Swans, the bump of Gang Gang Dance and the poignant jam loops of the previously mentioned Mogwai.
While not wholly innovative, Street Horrrsing is a solid work whose moments of musical chiaroscuro are not only refreshing but well-rounded and intensely engaging. It proves that Fuck Buttons as not only an intro-to-noise-listening danceable act, but an intricate force to be reckoned with.
P.S. The louder the better.