Guilt Ridden Pop
h how I regret not being able to smoke dope right now, as I languish in under-employment and attempt to keep my precious bodily fluids clean pending the inevitable drug test. Music was meant to be heard through a surreal filter, and without it, the fair to middling material confronting me daily is left painfully naked, bereft of the alchemic powers of those magical elixirs. Sure the great stuff is still great, but it’s the other stuff that could use a little boost. Of course there’s always the danger of trusting your addled senses too much, though. In fact, I recall being so high once that “Where Do the Children Go?” by Patti Smyth (with help from Philly’s own Hooters) struck me as an absolutely fantastic pop song. That’s flucking high!
I bet Infinite Justice from St. Paul, Minnesota’s Malachi Constant would just about wrap my brain around itself and have me staring transfixed at either the N.Y. Times home page or a losing hand of computer solitaire (see what the CD age has brought me to). Instead I’m left repeating this disc of largely instrumental, Sonic Youth-lite guitar pieces and wondering why I’m not happy. Unfair as it may be to the band, this reviewer is as sober as he’s been in months, he doesn’t like it, and this record is not providing anything resembling a drug-induced state of fascination.
Malachi Constant doesn’t even have the decency to be entertainingly horrible. No, in fact they’re often good, maybe even…possibly…almost…excelle - no, no, no—no, it’s the desperation talking, they’re just good, that’s all. With drugs however, a song like “Explosive Height” might’ve suggested a dynamic journey through points A, B and C propelling you from a frantic landscape of racing bass lines into undulating valleys of delicately plucked guitars finally dragging you over rough terrain of sawed at power chords. Without drugs it sounds like three decent parts strung together with a title thrown on top.
If you’re going to operate as an instrumental unit (okay, a largely instrumental unit), you’d better be able to paint some kind of mental pictures with your gear, because it’s a short road to “put something else on, please” if the riffs you offer don’t obscure the fact that no one is singing. Malachi Constant manages this throughout Infinite Justice, but never for long enough. “Saigon Kick” builds to a dramatic mid-section of guitars fighting to restrain their instinct for ear-piercing feedback, and then ambles to an unsatisfying conclusion. “Phoning it In” opens with a promising set-up, a disembodied voice breathing out syllables over a sketchy guitar pattern only to lose the thread and end up meandering on to some non-descript riffing.
If you’re willing to dig, there are treats at the bottom of the bag, but life is short and the CD racks groan with overabundance, you know. Malachi Constant certainly isn’t incapable, just too easily contented with passable material. Then again, they might just be high.
Reviewed by: Chuck Zak
Reviewed on: 2004-11-16