Since the dawn of their brilliant creation, bands like Sonic Youth have cut out a cozy niche for themselves and their indie-noise-rock brethren. The music is invigorating and innovative enough to attract a decent crowd, but at the same time off-kilter enough to ward off everyone but the most loyal of music geeks.
Throughout time though, the formula was tinkered with to an extreme (see: Butthole Surfers, Boredoms) and then tinkered with to the other extreme (see: Most alterna-grunge on indie labels in the early-90s). Then a balance was struck somewhere in the middle and the Dismemberment Plan was formed. IfIHadAHiFi also lean somewhere in that middle territory (though admittedly not quite that accessible or straightfoward), and with an emphasis on spazzy vocals and grinding synth work.
‘(The HiFi Vs.) Potential Energy’ tells you what it’s all about. The pulsating drums will have you shaking your shins whether you want to or not, the second-hand keyboards pumped way past their intended volume will urge you head and shoulders into a synchronized flail, and the rough-hewn guitars simply add an enjoyable racket so your blood stays nice and boiled. Buried deep in there somewhere, peeking out from behind a feedback corner, is a hook.
‘Chance-Medley’ offers even more intense punked up noise, and like ‘Gotta Disappear’, it plays like a track that can’t wait to end to get onto the next. It’s like an adrenaline rush that runs out quick simply to get to the next adrenaline rush. When they play ‘We Need This Noise To Live’ you don’t doubt their sincerity.
Every tune here is an exercise in insanity and adventure. One minute you’ve got a deafening barrage of screams and fuzz, the next you’re abducted by sci-fi sounds and the traditional-but-still effective post-punk warble.
The disc ends with a killer one-two kick in the ass: The title track gives the audio version of a Radio 4 and Jesus Lizard mutation. Very cool. The closer is a cover of Stevie Wonder’s ‘Uptight (Everything’s Alright)’ which is as linear as the band gets but still packs a unique sonic punch that, whether intended to or not, leads perfectly back into the leadoff song (Yes I’ve been listening to this on repeat).
You’ll either be utterly confused by IfIHadAHiFi or you’ll rock your fucking pants off. I’ll be doing both.
-Mark Hughson 7/10/05