4 out of 5
Label: Skin Graft
Produced by: Andrew Barker
Skin Graft has obviously put out some noisy records, but they can almost always be identified as somewhat anarchic punk rock – a la Pre – or the blasts of jazz or noise that Ruins (and its iterations) might put out. To my ears, it’s been years since the label has put out something so directly hardcore as Child Abuse’s Trouble in Paradise. Since Dazzling Killmen, honestly (which CA call to mind with the stop/start dynamics of tracks like Michael Landon), I don’t recall putting on an SG release and getting hit with this kind of blistering, raucous precision. That’s not at all to dismiss all of the other bands I love who’ve named the label home, just that I was caught off guard. Like if Hyrdra Head was still kicking around, I would’ve expected to see this there. That said, Child Abuse have kicked around on Lovepump United, home to AIDS Wolf, and with that in mind you can certainly filter this through a couple other aural references if needed.
But who cares. Trouble in Paradise is an insanely busy blast of chaos, a more grumbling version of the space-filling Lightning Bolt often commits. Or, at least, the disc is at its best when busy: there’s a bit of a slog toward the latter half of Straight Out of Compton and the first half of Child Abuse (tracks 4 and 5 out of 7) where they spastic keys and guitars seem to peel back, beating a repeated riff into the ground for several, several minutes. Interestingly, because all the jitters of the music leading up to this point is dropped for these minutes, it’s relatively ‘easy’ for your ears to tune in… which, unfortunately, gives the wrong impression that the music you’re listening to is repetitive. It’s anything but. Andrew Barker’s recording style borrows some death metal notes by burying the vocals way, way deep in the mix and favoring to play up the heavy guitar or fuzzy keys, washing out everything else. This makes for a unique feeling of heaviness, as whoever’s instrument is taking the lead – Eric Lau’s keys, Tim Dahl’s bass, Oran Canfield’s drums – is pushed into the background, giving the tunes an appealing sense of unrest. Canfield’s style is particularly notable, switching between jazz-like fills and standard rock pummeling as suits the need for noise or space. You can’t discern a lick of the lyrics, of course, as most are growled or babbled, but it’s just another layer of the madness. So, for the most part, you’re hit with this intense wave of talented noisemakers making noise, listening through a heavy blanket that seems to mute all the wankery bits but then mastered back up at lovingly ear-splitting levels. If not for a stretch where all the disc’s excesses temporarily drop out for some drone riffing, ‘Trouble’ would be jaw-dropping from start to finish.