Agony Shorthand

Wednesday, October 08, 2003
HAIR POLICE : “MORTUARY SERVANTS / RARE ANIMALS” 45…..First off, HAIR POLICE is an outstanding name for a band. Now that that’s out of the way, there’s this ridiculous “noise shit as genius” 45, which is essentially a bunch of electronic oscillator farting, out of synch drumming and formless, haphazard sound. It’s really, really difficult for me to get my head around the fact that people discuss, trade, collect and treasure this stuff. Around the time Bananafish and Opprobrium magazines began peaking with the chattering classes (roughly the mid 1990s), it finally hit home to me: the actual records produced by the boutique noise collector underground, pretty much to a disc, just flat-out blow. At least until someone plays me one that doesn’t! I imagine the scene continues to be propped up by disaffected punk rockers and former indie nerds in search of the most collectable and homemade records imaginable. I can even understand the draw somewhat, but the thought of an intelligent human being, possessed with free will, actually playing a Hair Police or a Merzbow 45 repeatedly – spinning it for friends, putting it on compilation CD-Rs for potential girlfriends, that sort of thing – just boggles the proverbial mind.

The chasm between true, inventive noise-shapers like LIGHTNING BOLT and farting charlatans like the Hair Police is vast, but you’d never know it by the unqualified raves given to anyone who glues wood chips to their pressing-of-50 boutique noise 45 and craps onto a mic for 3 minutes. Bananafish magazine probably did more to further this mindset than anyone, by virtue of Seymour Glass' excellent writing skills & sense of humor, luring many of the disaffected into smug noise collecting with the siren song of obscurity and insider cred. I think I really lost my faith in the noise fanzine nation when I saw bands like LIQUOR BALL garner waves of euphoria and hype from this crew, when the band's m.o. was to never practice and to get supremely baked and/or loaded before recording a batch of drunken, poorly-mixed improv (and no slight on those guys personally – they knew and maintained all along that it was all a total farce). Yet because it was so mysterious, so weird (no song titles! Limited pressings! Bizarre drawings on the sleeves!), you’d have thought from some reviews that people actually listened to it more than once. No one would really do that, right? Is it way too late to sound the alarm? Almost definitely. I should have spoken up sooner!! Sorry that the Hair Police, they of the cool band name, had to be my guinea pigs for this unformed but deeply-felt rant.