on’t blame the Jesus Lizard, the Pixies or Sonic Youth. McLusky isn’t their fault. . The Lizard melded muscle to mania, the Pixies perfected cauterizing pop and Sonic Youth turned noise into wine. With albums like Liar (tJL), Surfer Rosa (Pixies) and Evol (SY), these bands dared to make music that was explosive and beguiling, unlike anything anyone had heard before. These albums are perfect, each one a holy grail of its own, but holy grails are meant to be possessed as beautiful, eternal inspiration, not worn as a fucking hat.
Don’t blame Steve Albini, either. While it is his fault for assembling the studio of his dreams and for using that studio to enhance albums like Rid of Me, 24-Hour Revenge Therapy, In Utero and the aforementioned Liar and Surfer Rosa, it is not his fault feeble bands assume that enlisting Albini and his microphone collection will automatically improve their songs. For the albums mentioned, there was magic in place that merely required a big drum sound to provide a suitable “taa-daa”. Albini doesn’t equal greatness; he just happens to record it. Occasionally.
Blame McLusky. They wrote the transparent, flavourless distillations found on McLusky Do Dallas, and they should not be allowed to do it again. The songs themselves aren’t poorly assembled -- they’re dynamic and have at least some weirdness to them -- but they are generic to the point of failure: the dynamics are familiar, quiet-loud, start-stop, Touch and Go t-shirt fare and “weirdness” could just as easily be replaced with “drunkenness”. The songs that don’t recall the Pixies recall the Jesus Lizard. The songs that don’t recall the Jesus Lizard recall Sonic Youth. The songs that don’t recall Sonic Youth recall -- glaringly -- Yatsura. And man, Yatsura fucking sucks. Do Dallas seems forced, fake and old.
But most importantly, McLusky is unnecessary. True, the world needs more good, blistering bands that don’t sound like the Hives, but why resort to listening to a band -- a Welsh trio, no less -- because they remind you how good some of the cd’s in your collection are? Why settle? And settling is exactly what you’re doing if you plunk down money for Do Dallas. McLusky reminds of good bands; they sound like good bands. They are not a good band. You don’t use the words “rip-off” or “sucking the teat of” or “Christ, this album pisses me off” when talking about good bands, do you?
If you make it through “Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues” and aren’t thinking, “Uhhh. Alright. I hope this gets better,” you are a better man than this reviewer. “L.C.B.” is loud, battering and fast -- a tolerable, pop-less Pixies impression -- but then what?
Try the next song. It only gets worse. Not only does “Collagen Rock”’s squawking dirge go nowhere, it also decries the falseness of phoney bands. What’s the difference between a clearly lame, implant-stuffed band and a band with no sound and no ideas of their own?
And the vocals. Sweet Jesus Witherspoon. You know what made David Yow a great, shrieking frontman? He was David fucking Yow. Possessed of a truly disturbing voice, a gifted rhythmic delivery and debilitating backing music, Yow hacked up the perfect vocals for the Jesus Lizard. Andy Falkous is no David Yow, but that doesn’t stop him from bellowing atonally over most of the songs here. Unlike Yow (and the great-when-screaming Black Francis), Falkous’ voice is neither menacing nor mixed at the right level. The vocals, solely because of their volume, are the focal point of the entire album, and that’s a shame. They are silly, unwarranted and poorly executed stabs at Yow-ness that Yow avoided almost twenty years ago with Scratch Acid. Perfectly decent choruses could have been created had his yelling been strategically removed from both “To Hell With Good Intentions” and “Dethink to Survive”, but there they are, boring as all hell, spitting out gibberish at an alarmingly sad rate.
Credit must be given for a child’s handful of good songs. The thud and scrape of “What We’ve Learned” works like a charm. It’s immediate, striking and, like the similarly great and jerky “Chases”, benefits from lead vocals by the band’s bass player. Much of “Alan is a Cowboy Killer” is cool, spaced-out balladeering, but the song grinds to a hault when the band succumbs to the loud part of the quiet-loud formula. “Fuck This Band” is also really good, and not just because of the title.
When are people going to stop touting albums that don’t deserve it? Why not save breath (and money) and champion bands that actually set something -- on record, in you -- on fire? Cynically chuckle all you like, but just because Wire’s back and Interpol’s making our girlfriends wet doesn’t mean it’s all been done before. Thinking like that gets us nowhere; it gets us hyping bands that mine and combine sounds rather than create them; it tricks us into praising bands we know aren’t that good; it gets us bands like McLusky. The band is far from hopeless, but right now they’re very bad. Do Dallas and the rampant, garish, obvious, “fuck, I miss high school” nostalgia that paved the way for its release needs to be turned down.
Reviewed by: Clay Jarvis
Reviewed on: 2003-09-01