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Noise Ratchet
Till We Have Faces
The Militia Group

If their music, lyrics, and pictures are any indication, the five young fellows in Noise Ratchet spend their lives navigating the twisted paths of all things adolescently tragic. Instances of jealousy, vanity, self-consciousness, isolation, and desire for escape abound in the lyrics. These motifs are thoroughly mirrored in the grunge/emo/alternative/why-canít-we-come-up-with-a-real-genre-for-this-late-nineties-faux-hard-core-sound and the deep contemplative stares of Josh Hosler (vocals), Danny Lothspeich (guitar), Roger Molina (guitar), Jon Jameson (bass), and Brandon Young (drums). This would be a perfectly reasonable way of expressing your bandís soul (mainstream radio seems confident in this approach) except that this bandís press release claims that they formed "somewhere between the optimism of the summer and shear boredom." These guys seem too caught up in what Lee Ranaldo once called "the poetic truth of high school journal keepers" to be either optimistic or bored. This is not the only paradox explored on Noise Ratchetís sophomore effort Till We Have Faces. Despite the album title, pictures of the band clearly reveal that they all have faces. This leaves us with quite a mess to sort out.

Noise Ratchet excites listeners mainly in this ability to stretch the boundary of words, questioning the surfaces of meaning. In every example of vocabulary on Till We Have Faces, both written and sung, vocalist Hosler has the listener wondering just what the hell is going on here. Even the press release poses a problem. Despite its quite valid opening sentence ("Noise Ratchet is a band from San Diego"), the document quickly falls apart into a quagmire of spelling errors ("shear boredom") and odd metaphors about how the band stands "waist-deep in a pool of rabid anticipation." The most striking example of paradox on the press release comes in the description of Noise Ratchet as "a young band with an understanding of what makes a great record, without ever making one." I donít believe I could agree more.

The bandís name itself refers both to the infamous nurse from One Flew Over The Cuckooís Nest and the tool used to tighten your eardrums after a heavy-metal concert. In these references we see the band strategically aligning itself with two camps: the misguided and sometimes heartless liberal technocrats of the sixties bent on stamping out all forms of insanity (whether it be poverty, racism, or actual insanity) through science, and Metallica. The former might exist in terms of the latter if we suppose that Noise Ratchetís affinity for Metallica led them to a perverse infatuation with lawsuits, which somehow manifested itself as the desire to infringe on Ken Keseyís copyright. If so, we must conclude that Noise Ratchet is not the better for the attempt. Lyrical evidence, however, supports this claim: in "Wardrobe," Hosler sings of the phenomenon where we all seperate [another spelling error] ourselves / we all turn off / not in this world / cause today we are a disaster. This clearly reflects the bandís inner turmoil, which I suppose, might lead Noise Ratchet to encourage legal action against themselves. It also links stylistically with other instances of paradox, double-meaning, and self-definition based on a deep faith in the elasticity of words found throughout the album.

Examples of the "fun with language" theme do not stop at the bandís name. The album title equally suggests a playfulness in its use of slang and the conceit of existing without a face. This seems to parallel Noise Ratchetís interest with adolescent themes Ė perhaps the band is waiting to go through a ritual of initiation into manhood in order to earn their "faces." Hoslerís distrust of false faces shows in "Vanity" where Maybelline Queens with plastic faces. . . put on your mask every morning / scrape it off at the end of a long, long day, and again in "Disappear" when sin stains the hands of men decieved [sic]. The lyrics constantly reveal Hosler coming to terms with a world of appearances and competing claims of truth and often attempting to escape this world when reconciliation seems only a remote possibility. Yet stylistically, Noise Ratchet seems to delight in the notion of mixed meanings and shifting appearances. Again, we find ourselves sucked into the vortex of the paradox. All of this is another way of saying that, whatever these Californians are trying to achieve with words, it is not convincing.

The bandís obsession with appearances suggests that they are aware of their own limitations. The recognition of their relative youth and immaturity comes as a welcome surprise in an industry with an affinity for false claims of truth and experience. On the other hand, this recognition does not compensate for a lack of creativity and spelling abilities. (No, I donít honestly believe that a lyricist should be judged on his spelling ability, but in the case of Noise Ratchet this fact seems to correspond to a general lack of linguistic agility). The musical conceit of a grunge foundation laden with treble-ended arpeggios does little to support the lyrics and instead mirrors the banality of everything popular in rock these days. The confidence and thoroughness of style should serve Noise Ratchet well, but the music will need more creative backbone to carry the band beyond its youthful tendencies.

-Matt King

Track Listing:

  1. Permanent Solution
  2. Vanity
  3. Game Over
  4. For You Iíll Be Forgetting Me
  5. Disappear
  6. The Train
  7. Wardrobe
  8. End
  9. Away From You
  10. My Day
  11. Till We Have Faces
  12. A Way To The Heart

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