- Mon, 2011-02-07 14:13
Gay For Johnny Depp have ensured from the start that they are one of the most talked-about hardcore bands of recent years. From their eye-catching and eyebrow-raising name to their unconventional approach to media-interaction to their incendiary, whirlwind of a debut album The Politics Of Cruetly, the New York quartet have been the recipients of both adoration and contempt, but never of indifference. For those who fall into the adoration camp, the arrival of the band’s second album has been long-anticipated, and now, finally, it is here.
A quick glance at What Doesn’t Kill You, Eventually Kills You reveals an album that fits roughly into the same mould as its predecessor. The runtime is typically short, at around the 21-minute mark, and the track names typically lengthy, highlights including Humility Is For People Who Don’t Comprehend Their Own Mortality and No, I’m Married To Jesus. Now Keep Your Fucking Hands Off Him. Musically too, the tools of GFJD’s trade remain consistent with their previous work. This is an album of hyperactive hardcore saturated with cynicism, aggression and dark humour. However, far from being a carbon copy of The Politics Of Cruelty, What Doesn’t Kill You… is to its predecessor what a bare-knuckle prize-fight is to a drunken weekend bar-brawl.
Opening track Santa Claus, The Easter Bunny and Artistic Integrity sets out the album’s stall. In its one minute and forty-seven seconds it takes us from barked vocals and wildly flailing guitars to the line “I’m your saviour” sung mockingly over a simple descending riff to ringing chords and a softly thrummed, soothing bass line. It’s a journey that takes less than two minutes but that has an impact far greater than that short time-frame suggests it should.
So it is throughout the record. GFJD’s rare talent is to draw from various corners of modern metal and hardcore and to fuse them seamlessly together to gain maximum effect from minimum materials. Not a breath nor a drum-stroke nor a note is wasted. Suckcess is relatively straightforward (though very well executed) Refused-inspired rifferama, as is Nine Inch Males (Born To Hate), and other than the bonus track – a frantic cover of Slade’s Cum On Feel The Noize – it’s the closest that the band get to conventionality.
She Has The Hottest Limp (It’s All Noize) has echoes of System Of A Down’s first album in its wild-eyed bass and vocal eccentricities, then dispenses with such niceties as musical key and ends with singer Marty emitting something akin to Phil Anselmo’s falsetto scream circa Cowboys From Hell. We Are The World? Burn It Down! is a taut and ominous piece with military-sounding drums that builds towards a climax before crumbling into a single decaying chord, like a mushroom cloud slowly fading away after an explosion. Pink Flag shows the band at their most brutal, and most deserving of the ‘spazzcore’ label thrown their way in the past, and the album’s title track develops from a slow, controlled riff into a chaotic melee of sound underpinning Marty’s impassioned soapbox rant: “Let’s talk about the government! You don’t know the first thing about economics, you’re just one of the many stupid shouting voices…”
The real difference between GFJD’s first album and Whatever Doesn’t Kill You… is a new-found sense of nuance. There is a subtlety hiding here beneath the raw exterior that ensures that this spasmodic set of songs hangs together perfectly, regardless of the band’s apparent inability to settle into either a song or a style for any length of time. They have never been willing to acknowledge the rulebook, a sentiment aptly expressed in the line “we will never be the same: no guilt, no shame,” (Suckcess), but while previously GFJD took pleasure in simply turning their back on that rulebook, with Whatever Doesn’t Kill You, Will Eventually Kill You, they look it straight in the eye and detail its irrelevance with devastating eloquence.