The phenomena of the Locust is something I am completely incapable of grasping. I listen to the Locust, and I hear noise. The sounds coming out of my speakers when I put on Plague Soundscapes are something similar to what a serial killer must hear as he kills an 8-year old girl with a woodchipper. I do find this record to exhibit more talent than previous Locust efforts, I'll give them their share of credit; however, I still have a hard time considering this music, and that doesn't speak well for them.
Unlike a lot of other people, I was entirely unfamiliar with the Locust upon the release of this record. All I knew about them was the white belts and the love 'em or hate 'em attitude a lot of people seemed to have with them. Two things should outline everything you really need to know about this record: Justin Pearson from the late/great Swing Kids is now passing his time in this band, and twenty-three songs are played in about twenty-one minutes. Giving a rating, picking a favorite track, or even trying to describe this mess is pretty arbitrary, but I'll do these things anyway. I'll give it a seven out of ten, since I seem to be showing a masochistic streak as of late and have been throwing this on more often than not, and while I'm pretty sure it's damn near impossible to actually like something like this, I'm drawn to it at the same time. Umm, let's see, I'll pick "Can We Get Another Nail in the Coffin of Culture Theft" (yes, all the titles are this great) as my favorite track, because it's one of very few moments on the record where the band lets up and gives a song a little room to breath, which they could benefit from in the future. As for how it sounds, songs click by in about thirty seconds to a minute and fifteen, and are for the most part a complete jumble of guitars, keys, rhythm section, and top-of-the-vocal-chord screaming, one nearly indiscernable from the others. However, what the band makes up for intensity, they give up in cohesive ideas. Without enough room to give a song some space to evolve or to move in different directions, it all sounds same-y and, dare I say, a little boring at first glance, something that you wouldn't expect. Subtle changes pop up here and there upon repeat listens, and if you can stomach the chaos, it's actually a headphone music fan's dream come true; anyone who says every song is the same after a couple spins obviously hasn't been listening hard enough. Think about an entire record of the shorter cuts off Wire's Pink Flag LP and cross them with "Guitarmy" by the Blood Brothers, and you're not too far off the mark, more in line with the Blood Brothers, since they manage to infuriate hardcore kids by breaking the rules of their genre and showing it for what it really is: a boring, ritualized, idiotic mess, one created by people who've closed their minds to new ideas and shun the bands that push the envelope. The Locust, along with the aforementioned Blood Brothers, manage to fuse something dangerous into this genre that's been lacking recently, and it's a very welcome return. That being said, while I can't promise that you'll even remotely enjoy this record, I can say that most music will look tame to you afterwards.
The Locust has been shunned for their recent works. Their split with Melt Banana was not taken well by critics. People want The Locust to sound more like their Self-titled or Flight of the Wounded Locust, not like some band that changes. These people, however, don't understand that The Locust is all about change; whether they're wearing locust-like spandex outfits or playing nude, they're not going to play everyone's favorite songs. They like to change (or be post-modern, as they are).
Plague Soundscapes is no exception to The Locust's desire to change. Unlike their previous works, this album has more breakdowns with complete changes in rhythm and speed and less electronics; more melody and less chaotic madness at one hundred miles per hour. These characteristics make The Locust sound more like The Blood Brothers with different singers. "But Seth," you ask, "Didn't The Locust's self-titled have break downs?" Well, I simply answer this: yes, but it's not quite the same. Songs like Moth Eaten Deer Head and Backbones of Jackasses were great, fast and broke down at certain spots, but the new album's breakdowns break down too quickly to slow down. The only times the music slows to a more normal pace in comparison to other bands and uses more experimental noises. The first song, Solar Panel Asses, starts with a beat on the drums that I could swear is really the sputtering engine of a motorcycle, then all out chaos, then a quick breakdown for approximately two seconds, then all out chaos again with a different melody, then slightly less chaotic screaming from what sounds like Mark McCoy of The Oath and Holy Molar, then all out chaos again. The difference being that the self-titled's break downs were simpler; everyone in the band would stop and there would be just the keyboard, or just the drums. The changes in the breakdowns make the new album what it is.
Just because The Locust has changed does not mean they are bad. Quite the contrary, I consider this album to be pretty decent. Solar Panel Asses is one of my favorite songs and there are other songs that I enjoy listening to. But I still wish I had The Locust of a year or two ago, where they'd just make incredibly fast songs that don't stop until they're finished. I lament for days when I discovered Bring Your 65 Italian Carbine and Gluing Carpet to Your Genitals Does Not Make You a Cantaloupe.
Although they went from something like Charles Bronson to something like The Blood Brothers, I'm still listening to them, and I think you should too.
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