Typically when I get ready to review an album, I sit alone in the manner of that antisocial forty-year-old audiophile guy who lives in every apartment building, only I listen through the piece-of-shit speakers built into my student-friendly Dell laptop. When I sat down to review Dub Narcotic Sound System’s first full-length in five years, Degenerate Introduction, I thought, Perhaps I should listen to this through headphones as to avoid missing all those awesome sounds that are buried within. So I put on headphones and waited for those bizarre little sounds. After nine forgettable tracks, they never arrived.
Perhaps I should skip the attempted wittiness and get straight to the analysis and name-dropping. The best way to sum up the album is by highlighting some tracks:
1) “Mate’s Revenge” has a beautiful four-minute buildup, and just when you think it’s over and nicely concluded, you realize that there are still five fucking minutes left.
2) “I Don’t Love” has the vocal balls of Vinny Miller’s “Cromagno” on his debut, On the Block. If you love experimenting with your own voice when nobody’s home, check out both songs and have a talent contest.
3) “Blood Flow,” which could be the end of a tiring jam session, commits the now-trendy act of Bush-bashing, offering some beautifully high school-esque political observations, including “Cheney is a heartless corpse,” “Ashcroft is an ass” and, my favorite, “Colin Powell’s a corporate marionette wet dream.” Do the Republicans have some new campaign slogans on their hands?
To say this album is fantastically nihilistic would be like saying John Bobbit has got an unscarred symbol of manhood: if you give it a shallow once-over, it’s fine and dandy, but if you take a closer look, it starts to lose its appeal. Fronted by K Records founder and former Beat Happening frontman Calvin Johnson, Dub Narcotic Sound System has created the ideal soundtrack to chain smoking in a singles bar — provided they’re the live band that all the lonely people are tuning out and using as a reason to leave, of course.
Not to say that the album doesn’t have any redeeming value; it’s a journey of catchy beats, quirky vocal parts and funky bass lines that wah-wah their way into your heart. One or two of these songs can be a nice change from the usual fare, but every song seems to repeat itself, which is nothing new for Dub Narcotic Sound System. Check 1999’s Sideways Soul, a collaboration with the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, which one reviewer said sounded like “Johnny Cash and fat Elvis went insane, got real drunk and turned on a tape recorder.” That reviewer was onto something. He’d probably say the same about Degenerate Introduction. Not that fat Elvis wasn’t entertaining, of course.