It’s Not a Race


Why do tired rock noises sound so refreshing when they come from non-English-speaking countries? F’rinstance: One of my fave records last year came from a demented Japanese surf-instrumental group called Wonwons, but if the same kinda music had been made by lummoxes from Brooklyn or San Fran I might’ve shrugged or spit. Why? Maybe because willfully absurd U.S. acts tend to perspire too hard. I can’t hear the music over the implicit shouts of “WE KNOW BETTER! DO YOU GET IT?” Oh, I get it all right. Now please stop waving Krokus and Visage records that you dug out of the dollar bin in my face.

Example: Trans Am, whom I like but who always seem to be feverishly concocting new genre-fucking formulae to bedazzle Magnet readers. Like it’s a race. On other continents, there’s not so much one-upmanship = innovation stuff.

Which is one reason Spain’s Manta Ray, on their new Estratexa, can move from Notwist bleeps to tight-ass indie mathcore to Sonic Youth grunge to FX-laden theremin-spiced Chi-town geek struts to instrumental homages to Stone Temple Pilots (who btw did the cheeky everything-in-a-bucket pastiche routine with some grace) to smoky slinky Slint-alikes and not even break a sweat. Is it novelty that makes it all sound so cool? Or the exotica factor? Maybe it’s a parable thing: Music is theft, but nobody likes a thief who brags about all the crap he steals.