Barkmarket – Gimmick

5 out of 5

Label: American

Producer: Dave Sardy

Out of that small batch of NY sludge in the late 80s / early 90s, Barkmarket already stood apart, their initial work roping in aspects of each of their peers – punk, hardcore, jazz, noise, funk – and coughing it out into an impressive, if uneven, frenzy of a couple albums, brought to life by the burgeoning production skills of Mr. Sardy.  And before quietly dispersing, ‘L.Ron.’ would happen in ’96, one of the best sounding discs I’ve ever heard, though it treads closer to the more mainstream hardcore stuff that would become popular in the late 90s.  So that’s two sides of the Barkmarket curve.  Between, you have this amazing peak: ‘Gimmick.’  One of the loudest, most abrasive albums I’ve ever heard; an amazing production achievement; a smart and cynical and violent rant against nothing, against everything… and without falling back on any kind of traditional chugga-chugga guitar dynamics or verse-chorus-verse dynamics.  Yes, 45 minutes of this gets a bit taxing, but we even have sequencing on our side: the first half hour builds to the relentless ‘Redundant’ before slowing down for an oddball retread of ‘Static,’ called ‘Radio Static,’ in which distortion is traded for ringing acoustics and Sardy’s committed vocals are replaced by a robotic voice.  The track is still heavy in its own way – still dangerous, still emotional, even though all of the traditional elements have been stripped away, in favor of layers and layers that, again, prove how skilled Sardy is/was at making these deeply programmed sounds come to life.  The John Nowlin track – ‘Gatherer,’ is also well applied, buffered by the rousing ‘Dumbjaw’ and anti-sex ‘Hack it Off,’ two of the more direct songs on the disc.  But before all that, you get the assault of the opener ‘Easy Chair,’ fading in to a misleading groove before exploding into Barkmarket clatter, and the afore-mentioned ‘Static’ – which, no matter how often I listen to it (which is often), retains a level of pure ferocity and spark in its lyrics that are proof of how the power of words can be enhanced when they’re sung with passion – or in this case, distorted and screamed.

As you can perhaps tell, I’m reaching for any other words which indicate the level of NOISE on Gimmick.  But, like Congleton’s Paper Chase during their formative years, this is achieved without so many of the tropes that come with the heavy genre.  And forefront of that is Sardy: his intelligent, harsh lyrics still giving me concepts on which to ponder and his polished production pretty much responsible for making me realize there was such a thing as production.

The disc closes with the fittingly snarky line, “the rest is bliss.”  And by the time you get there, sense drained, digging on the momentous closure of that track, you feel pretty assured in smiling in agreement of those words.

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