Wednesday, July 23, 2008

“Scream bloody murder, the mountains are listening”

A lot of people have said that the rhythm section is the backbone of a band, but really how often is that true? Well, in the case of Big Business, it’s very true. Doubling as the rhythm section for sludge metal luminaries the Melvins, Big Business are simply Jared Warren (bass/vocals) and Coady Willis (drums). Guitars pop in now and then but only as accents to bass and drums and their booming assault.

A band consisting solely of bass and drums (and vocals, of course) sounds a bit like a novelty. I mean, really, how much can two guys do with just a bass and a drum set? Thankfully, they can do quite a bit, and they can do it well.

On Here Come the Waterworks, the duo’s sophomore album, the sound is thick, rumbling, and thunderous throughout, but they manage to keep it interesting. Song to song, and sometimes even within single songs, subtle changes in style and pacing keep the album from sounding too much like the same thing over and over again.

Album opener “Just As the Day was Dawning” is a thundering, rollicking, straight-ahead rock song that gives way to “Hands Up,” a hardcore influenced anthem that opens with the repeated screaming of “STAMPEDE!” before demanding “hands up, hands up, hands up/like the people beside you, hands up.” From then on they touch on slow, almost dirge-like territory (the paranoid “Shields” and the brooding “I’ll Give you Something to Cry About”), mid-tempo drum corps inspired pronouncements (the near ethereal “Another Fourth of July…Ruined”), T.Rex-esque boogey (the not-quite-but-almost-danceable “Start your Digging”) and sweeping instrumentals (album-closer “Another Beautiful Day in the Pacific Northwest”).

Personally, the peak of the album is “Grounds For Divorce.” In five and a half minutes the song moves from its up-tempo traditional metal opening into a heavy, slow, harrowing chorus. Throughout the song the tone, sound, and tempo seamlessly shift back and forth, painting an epic portrait of near Biblical destruction. Even lyrically the song switches from self-conscious absurdity (“I heard he dabbled in witchcraft, I heard occult/Oh, they’re pretty much the same/I guess he was adopted or raised by wolves/That’s ridiculous to say”) to ominous seriousness (“We’re left with some stories and notes/But this is the part that will hurt/And nobody learned/And now nothing grows here”) and back again.

Ultimately “Grounds For Divorce” sums up the entire album pretty nicely, showcasing Big Business’s willingness to push the sonic boundaries of their musical range and their seemingly off-the-cuff lyrics that can, at turns, sound absolutely ridiculous or (possibly accidentally) profound.

Surprisingly, this thick wall of murky sound is usually quite catchy. Though the album is a dense assault on the senses, it is a thoroughly enjoyable listen. Assuming, that is, that you like your music loud and gut rumbling.

And for shits and giggles, here's more Murderface: