By Steve Weinstein
By Bryan Bierman
By Lindsey Rhoades
By Chaz Kangas
By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Jena Ardell
By Jesse Sendejas Jr.
By Katherine Turman
Liquid Diet. Soaking Wet From Your Brother's Tears. Paint Gurgle. The titles of Yellow Tears' releases are hardly window dressing. This Brooklyn trio's worldview is thoroughly saturated — splashes, drips, slurps, gushes, flushes, desperate, gargled gasps — set amid whirlpooling perversions of electronic noise imitative of violent viscosity. Provocative samples surface in the mix, but if the NYC trio has a patron saint, it's inarguably Piss Christ and Blood and Semen III photographer Andres Serrano, a cultural lightning rod whose materials routinely sicken audiences.
Horror-flick score clanks, smothering drones, and nightmarish madness defined 2009's Don't Cry (think freaking out in a maniac's mansion) and 2007's Shed traded mostly on dilating blitzkrieg blare (think a homicidal fire hose), but 2008's The Pissmop and 2010's The Cult of Yellow Tears are where the trio of Frank Ludovico, Jeremy Nissan, and Ryan Woodhall truly went wet. The former tapped into myriad permutations of liquidity and the possibilities of industrial, looped echo with the gung-ho virtuosity of a Sunset Strip hair metal guitarist; the latter suggested a bunch of determined dudes repeatedly mock-waterboarding each other.
Until now, a seedy bondage dungeon murk dominated the group's aesthetic. If Yellow Tears were Jackass + isolation tank + a charged Taser, new double album Golden Showers May Bring Flowers (Septic World International) is Jackass + isolation tank + a charged Taser + Luis Buñuel. The group's masochistic signifiers are in full effect, but Showers plays like a baffling, ponderous cross between a Happy Endings, a noise opus, and a coming-of-age drama. Here, crickets chirp at exaggerated volume as a group of friends wanders through a forest; there, a reverie of orgasms and New Age synthesizers is shattered by loud knocking and an admission that someone "was fucking a bush," which is sucked into the afterburner of a jet. Here random chatter sluices into crackling audio of swimming sounds and the looping, masticated emanations of children or birds; there sheets of dinner-party chit-chat are layered into inanity.
Bros goof on lame infomercials or bicker over viewing choices. Voices echo suggestively at the far ends of caverns. Fluids drip insistently through pipes. Unstable drones color or vaporize intelligible discussions; jingoistic gargling competitions at a fictional family park named Hosetown rage. Showers is a definite grower, an epic, 85-minute mosaic of miscellany and narrative intrigue five years in the making, as lulling as it is disparate. Even its creators concede that the album's strands don't add up and aren't really meant to.
"We first came up with the idea [for Showers] while touring behind Pissmop in the summer of 2008," Woodhall explains. "We came up with the title first, and knew that we wanted it to have a narrative." The concept, according to Nissan, was for Showers to be an "environmental record." The band members began to commit rambling stretches of found sound to tape and to record themselves in unguarded moments — traveling, hanging out, and cracking jokes — eventually amassing "entire hard drives of stuff we didn't use." Gradually, by the summer of 2011, a direction began to reveal itself.
"We started noticing that some of the best moments were the candid things, the outtakes, and thought, 'What if we started recording ourselves making the record?'" Nissan remembers. "A pivotal point was where we could use the sound of us just talking as the raw material. We started coming up with scenes and thinking of it as a movie; TV shows and movies have themes. That's how we started working music into it."
The "themes" themselves are scattered throughout Showers, interpretations of a core keyboard melody. A few are shockingly accessible: Awash in drips and splashes, the "Opening Theme" is sweeping and almost Olympic; the "Love Theme" hemorrhages moans and bird calls, and hums with a spacey, regally serene glow. The "Dark Theme" is a compelling, ascending drone that threatens to evolve into a Tortoise B-side, while the "Title Theme" sounds as though it's passing through Godzilla's digestive system. One might think of these as anchors or signposts for the waves of weirdness swirling around them, the transitions morphing from a daydream to a nightmare.
"Life is 99 percent pure mundane nothing, but that's as important as any high point," Nissan says. With Showers, the band sought to locate "the musicality behind those sublime moments — there's probably an infinite number of forgotten moments that have real significance."
There is also a sense of the band subtly sending up its own reputation as a liquid-fixated concern, in the incessant gargling fits and a moment when someone complains that gargling "is all people want to hear anymore," an interpretation that Woodhall notes is "dead on."
Hosetown, according to Nissan, is "definitely influenced by that kind of adolescent American suburban attitude. We all share that. Hosetown is fratty and aggressive in a weird way. We developed it in a way that we're laughing at our own experiences and making something positive out of this negative attitude."
"For years, we've been working with liquid themes and piss," Woodhall says with a laugh. "There's a darkness, but also a celebration. We embrace it, but know it's completely insane."