Trash Talk - 119 - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Trash Talk - 119

by Jonathan Tate Rating:4.5 Release Date:2012-10-08

I like the concept of Trash Talk - they are musicians who live together in a Warehouse space with areas for skateboarding, making art, making music and, presumably, making food and making sleep. They have self-published a number of fanzines and used to release all their own music until they 'signed' to Odd Future's record label. I put signed in quotes because Odd Future are Trash Talk's mates, and are also the only reason that a mainstream audience, or even an audience outside the small sphere of hardcore punk/thrash metal will ever hear of them.

I don't incidentally have a problem with that either - I was never a skateboarder myself (I went through a BMX-punk phase until the unholy combination of 10-hole DMs and Beartrap pedals finally did for my shins), but I love the idea that this urban pastime has worked as a galvanising force to create what feels like a youth movement that brings together the audiences of the whitest music and the blackest music. White teens and black teens cross-pollinating and rebelling together, or experimenting with each other's form of rebellion.

We could argue that RUN DMC/Aerosmith and Anthrax/Public Enemy went there first, but neither of those collaborations was a youth or cross-cultural idea; they were novelty money-making schemes to double the fan base of each independent entity. Not to entirely diminish the fairly revolutionary idea of these earlier collaborations, but I can't help but feel that each party was less potent afterwards - particularly the hip hop acts.

I was initially drawn to reviewing Trash Talk because I liked the idea of 119 as a musical collaboration, but of course it isn't. Sure, Tyler the Creator appears on 'Blossom & Burn', but only for a brief rap that doesn't alter the tone of the track because he is forced to yell in almost the same way as Lee Spielman, only with a little more clarity.

This album really adds nothing to the canon already developed by Black Flag, Token Entry, Rage Against the Machine, Napalm Death and countless others in their own times, and while the rhythm section is a strength of Trash Talk, the vocals and guitar are definitely weak links. For what is supposedly an opportunity for teen catharsis, there is a great deal of monotony, but still I can almost imagine my 16-year-old self wedged into a chaotic, beery, leathery moshpit, but for the lack of sing-along-able lyrics and hummable tunes. I'll admit that I started to acclimatise to the album towards the end, but this may simply be musical Stockholm syndrome. Nevertheless, allow me to take you on the journey of my experience with 119's 14 tracks and total running time of under 28 minutes.

We're straight in with 'Eat the Cycle', hitting it fast and heavy for a minute-and-a-half and then slowing to a bass-driven spider crawl before kicking straight into 'Exile on Broadway' which goes shouty-shouty-shout, shouty-shouty-shout, shouty-shouty-shout, shout. Shout. Shout. This continues on 'My Rules,' which has a stop in it so you can clearly hear the words "my rules" being yelled at you. Which is a touch irksome because those were the only lyrics I could pretty much guarantee were going to be in there so would have appreciated some of the other ones being perceptible.

'F.E.B.N' is a bit different because it starts with the drums and bass and I can hear some words about onward upward always. Oddly, I welcomed the change of a bit of piercing feedback at the start of 'Uncivil Disobedience', which at least was not the same repetitive notes in the same timbre that I had started to acclimatise to. The song itself also seems to be about peaceful protest from what lyrics I could make out - suggesting that inciting a riot is easy, but not lashing out is harder, so why not try that? Which is a nice sentiment, but surely a hypocritical one. Is it easier to yell and make fast loud music that can move a crowd through sheer speed and volume at a show than to actually challenge them to think?

'Blossom and Burn' is a sinister crawl which could be a drudge-metal version of 'Yonkers', but without the charm. 'Reasons' sounds like Nirvana with really bad hangovers and the sound guy on vocals because Kurt was in the loos again - but it has some discernible words: "I'm surrounded by liars and thieves and they're just like me… Your reasons will be the death of us", which is a welcome change before we're back into the bass-heavy drill of 'Fuck Nostalgia'. I have to admit that by this stage, I'm starting to pick out more words and while there is anger, there are also glimpses of poetry, albeit of a repetitive variety.

'Apathy' has never sounded less apathetic, unless it is the apathy of staying in one's comfort zone, although I'm pretty sure that there's a chord above the ninth fret in the 'chorus', which I guess is progress? 'Thanks But No Thanks' has the line "bullshit is bullshit" - which they have definitely got from The Jam's 'Beat Surrender ' - and it's a really dirgey, slow headbanger with a ring of Rage Against the Machine about it but without the melody.

'Bad Habits' is Black Flag meets Napalm Death while 'Swinging in Pieces' is less than a minute long, so it has that going for it. Hey, 'For the Lesser Ground' comes in at 27 seconds - score! I can definitely see the light at the end of the tunnel. After this blessed brevity however, the two-minutes-plus of 'Dogman' feels like an eternity. An eternity of being hit just above the left temple with a spoon while a particularly husky Doberman pincher growls in your ear on the end of a taught, and eminently snappable chain.

I'm sorry if this is your thing, but I just can't feel anything to love about 119. Like abstract expressionism, there is a veneer of bullshit when critics discuss the deeper merits of this kind of thing when it does briefly receive a glancing blow from the zeitgeist: 'it's visceral, it's emotive - it gets to the very nub of what it means to be a disaffected youth'. Does it? I think that is not only preposterous, but a little bit patronising, and I don't believe for a second that there are connoisseurs of this stuff out there; a thrash elite who can distinguish between good screaming and mediocre screaming?

Let's be honest, this is really fucking niche and I would be amazed if it sold to the kids - although a swathe of East London hipsters will definitely lap it up as a new bandwagon to ride because of the Odd Future connection and bass player Spencer Pollard's beard/skinhead combo.

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0 out of 5 stars
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