Pretentious art punk band, Body/Head make a 40 minute album with just two electric guitars and one voice.
What could go wrong?
Body/Head is an experimental electric guitar duo comprised of former Sonic Youth frontwoman, Kim Gordon, as well as guitarist and founder of Open Mouth Records, Bill Nace.
“The Switch” is their newest full length album since their 2013 debut, “Coming Apart.”
Just to make it clear, I understand this is an avant-garde album and that performers intentionally venture outside of what is considered acceptable music, however, just because it is attempting to push boundaries, does not mean that this project should be as tedious of a listen as it is.
The opening track, “Last Time” jumps straight into the band’s world of weirdness with woozy, distorted guitars that put the listener at a state of unease. This intoxicating experience is entertaining for awhile, but it does eventually wear out its welcome when it begins approaching the three minute mark. Luckily, Gordon’s haunting vocals come in to save the day, inserting her mysterious aura into the track. Her chilling vocal appearance is brief, but it manages to provide a solid transition into the third leg of the track.
“You Don’t Need” is significantly shorter, lasting about five and a half minutes rather than the previous song’s eight minutes. This song in particular has some of my favorite guitar effects on the album. While Gordon’s voice is pretty incomprehensible, her singing method provides an eerie accompaniment to the drone influenced guitars. It’s almost as if her singing is acting as the backdrop while the instrumental takes center stage.
Easily the shortest cut in the track listing, “In the Dark Room” should have felt like one of the quickest listens, but instead it is one of the toughest experiences on the record. It opens up decently with gothic instrumentation, but once the song reaches a minute, a layer of distortions swoops in and masks the instrumental for the remainder of the song. The distortion is so prominent that it is nearly impossible to discern one note from another. It’s not even done to enhance the aesthetic of the song. Instead it feels like it is being used to cover up the subpar songwriting.
I’m pretty neutral on the song, “Change My Brain.” This is one of two cuts that last over 10 minutes. It is one of the more well-structured songs in the tracklist, but it is also one of the least memorable. A lot of the moments on this track seem to borrow ideas from previous songs on the album making it hard to discern.
The first half of the closer, “Reverse Hard” literally sounds nonexistent because the guitars are mixed so low that barely anything is audible. Even when the audio picks up, rather than sounding like intricately composed experimental noise rock, instead, it sounds like Gordon and Nace mindlessly riffing for five minutes until the song finishes with an awkwardly repeated riff.
Coming away from this release, I feel pretty indifferent. At some moments, I legitimately enjoy the duo’s unique take on electric guitar playing, but on other moments the group does not even seem to be trying with long periods of time feeling empty. I do have to commend the group, however, for managing to create a tolerable 40-minute record just out of two distorted guitars and sparsely used singing. If you decide to check this album out, think of it as being a grungy avant-garde take on ambient music. It’s alright to have on in the background, but when it comes to focusing entirely on the content, there really is not a lot to look at aside from core-shattering singing and grandiose transitions.
Best songs: “You Don’t Need,” “Last Time”
Worst song: “Reverse Hard”