The Set of Red Things, Who Touches Pitch Defiles Herself
This album brings out a lot of mixed feelings in me. I really like some of it, but then the bad parts are just too bad to let go. The first track, “Between Tangled Wire & Sand Bags,” was really sweet; it reminded me a lot of Deloused-era Volta or Volcano!. It was passionate, almost Björk-esque yelps over chaotic noise instrumentation reminiscent of Melt Banana. The Björk-ness of The Set Of Red Things doesn’t end there, though — the breakdown on “Babies,” with the throaty, showtunes-y vocals…that was awesome.
But then I got to “Hand Grenades Next Month.” The music lost its edge, its innovation. Oh, and the lyrics… They sound as if a bunch of 8th grade mall-goths tried to be Rage Against The Machine, with their pseudo-rise up protest calls. The song is just bad. I go on listening, nevertheless, hoping that maybe it was just a bad track; after all, that’s only one out of four now, right?
Unfortunately, the next few songs really turned me off of this album for a number of reasons, almost all of which revolved around the vocals. What an embarrassing mess. I know what they were going for, but if you can’t get it down by the time you hit the studio, then cut it from the album or put off recording until you’re ready. I know that on “To Every Woman, A Happy Ending,” they really wanted to have those punchy rhythmic vocals on the verses, but they should’ve spent a little more time plotting out the syllables to the beat so it wouldn’t sound so strained.
Undoubtedly, my biggest beef with this album is “Hey, Let’s Make A Trade,” which starts out with the cheesiest first-person mid-battle war diatribe in the history of fighting, followed by the most uneducated, recycled, anti-war sentiments I’ve ever heard. These are each followed by the magical repetition of the line, “Man, this shit gets my dick hard,” which takes away entirely from the message to make the band appear edgy and offensive and ends up making them look like they are trying way too hard to be different instead of actually just being different.
“Vow” brings back the sporadic Lightning Bolt-ish-ness of the first few songs, but after I had to force my way through the heart of the album, I’m too disillusioned to really get into the last couple of songs. They all seem like more of the same, actually taking away from the good part of the album by watering down what little originality I could scrape out of this CD.
The only other part of the album interesting enough to even mention now is the extremely annoying beginning and ending to the last track, “A Subterranean Fire,” which sounds like a B-side on a System Of A Down coverband’s attempt to write their own music. The music is bland, and the vocals are starting to get annoying.
All in all, I think the cover of the album really embodies the musical content: two ugly, alien-esque creatures, one masturbating the other while he screams in anguish. What does this metaphor mean? That The Set Of Red Things really, really wants to be edgy and experimental and creative and stand for something, but they just aren’t that band. It’s a struggle for identity, with the band landing somewhere between what they really are and what they think is cool (which isn’t cool at all)…and that puts them behind a mask of pseudo-rebelliousness and would-be artsy-fartsy.