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.
- Permanent Solution
- Game Over
- For You Iíll Be Forgetting Me
- The Train
- Away From You
- My Day
- Till We Have Faces
- A Way To The Heart
in the webboard
e-mail the chief
Like this article?
it to a friend!