Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Porest- true musical terrorism

Sun City Girls' Alan Bishop says of the Porest CD Tourrorists: "It's a masterpiece. In fact, its the only record that actually matters right now. Everything else seems irrelevant in comparison." Alright, maybe he's a little biased since he heads up the label that put it out but one thing's for sure- it's not like anything you've heard before and it's a truly disturbing listen. Not disturbing in the thrilling way but more in the truly unsettling way. Not many CD's can do that nowadays.

For his 4th album, Oakland's Mark Gergis acts like a one-man band, playing all manner of instruments but more importantly, supplying voice, real and computerized, processing and appropriated. Other than artwork, not just the burning twin towers of cash on the cover but also the box-cutters used in the credits, the voices heard provide a strange, unpleasant conversation about terrorism and how it's perceived through the media. Even with a few years of distance, the Sept. 11th attacks are still an open wound for many. Forget sugar-coating- Gergis doesn't care about being disrespectful to the incident or the reaction to it. To him, it's a joke. A horrible, ridiculous joke but a joke nevertheless. In his eyes, the breast-beating over-patriotic militarist Yanks and the Al-Qaeda terrorist are equally worthy of being slapped up and ridiculed.

(If it seems unthinkable to make a light of foreign attack on American soil, remember back to an episode of the Simpsons where the senile ol' Grandpa says: "I haven't felt this relaxed and carefree since I was watch commander at Pearl Harbor." We get the joke and can laugh now but it definitely wouldn't have been as funny in 1941.)

While much of the music is fake ethno music (i.e. Can, Byrne/Eno) or Eastern dance music as seen by a Westerner (i.e. Muslimgauze), it's the words that Gergis finds or uses that cut deep. For starters, "Let's Roll" has computer voices over a cool jazz beat. "One of them said Let's Roll, if you believe that, I have a box of boxcutters to sell you," says one of this disembodied voices. Later, there's a bizarre conversation: "My American passport is my greatest asset but did you know, I'm also a terrorist?" "That's so awesome." "C'mon, it's a holy war." "In that case, let's roll." (those last two words of course being the rally cry of the passengers who stopped the last airplane from flying into Washington DC).

After a racial exchange, one of the voices claims to be aligned with the "Yankee Doodle Martyrs Brigade," followed by verses like "when the media speaks, the people nod/we take our instructions from the Israeli mosad" and "when I masturbate, I think of Bin Laden/but he's been dead since 2001/laid to waste in the Afghan sun" and "Get down on the floor/this is going to be our holy war" and "The sooner we're finished/the sooner we'll be in heaven." The song ends with these words (echoed in the liner notes): "God bless the terrorists and their families... peace." Somehow, you don't believe that he's just talking about Al Qaeda and company here.

Later on the cheesy Disco beat of "Eye of the Leopard," he dispense more wisdom. "I saw the planes hit the building and I had to laugh... You f*ck my people and you break them in half/I think your company is too over-staffed." "We'll kill you while you sing 'the lord is my shepherd'." "You say that you want to bring me de-moc-racy/I say you don't even know what that means."

Later, a woman is interrogated by a barrage of INS questions, Yanks make fun of a foreigner's accent, "Haiti... Cuba..." gets chanted over a fog horn, another Yank tries to speak Spanish but the respond is "no comprendez" and a kindly man offers a bomb recipe ("... mix carefully and explode") and cannibalistic recipes for Africans and Middle Easterners.

None of which totally makes sense and isn't meant to. Gergis wants to confound, upset, un-nerve and titillate in the most un-P.C. way possible. Some of it's funny, some of it's not (and it's not always meant to be) but it's never boring or un-interesting. Bill Maher could learn a lot from this guy.

[SIDE NOTE: I'll be in Austin for SXSW for the next few days. If you happen to be around the Convention center, stop in for the Blog panel on Saturday the 18th at Noon. We're planning to end it with a pie fight.]


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