Each Tuesday, FADER editor Matthew Schnipper highlights an underappreciated recent release he thinks we need to know about. This week it’s Mindflayer’s Take Your Skin Off LP. Watch a video of Mindflayer playing and read Schnipper’s thoughts after the jump.
Waiting at the barbershop, I looked over my shoulder at the kid next to me. He was reading a paperback and, squinting, I made out the title written atop the page: “Refusing to feel desperately unhappy.” I looked at him. Was he desperately unhappy? When it was his turn for a trim he put the book in his backpack and sat in the chair, made brief small talk with the Russian barber. I didn’t think he looked desperately unhappy. Didn’t have the happiest looking shoes, but the rest of his wardrobe was peppy enough. Not a super ugly dude if not a male model. Just seemed like a guy, a regular guy. What drives a person to logically calculate their state of mind as beyond miserable and reason that a book at the barbershop is the quick fix? It seemed like a tenuous, temporary solution at best. Are the solution and the problem related? Solving desperate unhappiness with a standard manual (after looking up the title, I found it was a chapter from the popular self help book A Guide to Rational Living) seems unlikely. But perhaps the way the unhappiness lives it can be easily, rationally broken down and trashed with proper, easily accessible weapons. Maybe that kind of unhappiness is a blessing in disguise.
Talking to my friend Daniel in California last week I realized I don’t understand musicians. Which is maybe a problem for my line of work—which is to understand musicians. He’s a musician. I guess I understand him. We talked about how he does all the press for his band now and has learned to rein in his loquacious ways. I remember last winter he was visiting New York and had a phone interview to do, retreated into the back of my apartment for a half an hour. He did not stop talking once. In one way, this is a blessing when talking to musicians, not having to pull answers out of them. But conversely it can be a complete mind meandering, finding meaning in that is like looking for pebbles at the bottom of the ocean. Part of that is the point—deducing how and why a person thinks and acts, the relationship between the product, the music and the person. This isn’t a complicated concept, nor a new one, but each time it's replicated it’s always fresh. For example, after I got back from California I did an interview with a musician who told me he is working on music for a ballet. I asked him if I could see video of the ballet and he told me that I could not because it is done in a black box theater in the dark, that the work with the shadows is the crucial part, and they would never light it. You have to see it in person to understand its essence. Then he told me about how he makes a yearly trip to Israel to float in the Dead Sea and rejuvenate himself. This dude is not worried about being desperately unhappy, you see what I’m saying?
So maybe understanding isn’t the best word, maybe it is identifying. I jokingly said that I don’t think I ever want to hang out with musicians ever again (sorry guys I know you are so bummed to show me that awesome finger tapping you just figured out!) and he knew what I meant. A few days after I got back, I got to hear the new T-Pain record. It has a song on it called “Regular Girl.” That was the most fascinating concept, his desire for some plain shit. Some Old Navy and Diet Coke driving the dude wild. A few days after that, we got the new Ligntning Bolt in the mail. I’ve never seen Lightning Bolt for much of the same reason I don’t want to chill with musicians: I don’t want to chill with people who like music, either (I hate myself, FYI) (JK!). No, but seriously, Lightning Bolt shows are tons of people jostling and freaking out and it always seemed too prescribed for me. They are playing here soon in a space purposefully too small and I thought about going but I know I will just get moshed to death so instead I’ll probably just chill and read a book and think about what other people do for fun because I don’t understand how to have it.
Anyway, I started thinking about Mindflayer, who was Lightning Bolt’s dummer and this dude Mat Brinkman who basically played an electrified stick. I saw them play in a place in Baltimore, Tarantula Hill, owned by the people in the noise duo Nautical Almanac. I was told it was an abandoned doctor’s office they bought from the city for very cheap. It burned down a few years after that. So these dudes are playing completely insane music and we’re there with my friend Daniel and this weird girl he was kind of dating who played the flute and this dude is playing drums and making crazy music with his mouth with a Madonna headset microphone and it just sounds like noise but not total whitewash noise, more manageable than that. There was beat and purpose and it sounded like the kind of music that you would describe to someone German who works at an art gallery and they would start to cry and tell you about how weird towns in America are where pure expression comes from or some bullshit. I remember hearing a story about Olneyville, the part of Providence where those dudes all lived, where someone was showing someone around there and the dude who lived there dropped an empty wrapper from a bag of chips. The dude who was visiting was like “Hey you aren’t going to pick that up?” and the dude who lived there was like “How do you think we keep the rent so cheap?”
Okay so basically what I am trying to say is 1. I totally would have picked up the chip wrapper and been disgusted and 2. The dudes from Mindflayer would never ever be like, “Man not only am I so not happy that I am desperately unhappy. And I refuse to feel like that. And I will figure that out with a book I buy on amazon.com. I’ll read it at the barbershop.” I guess maybe I’m not either of those dudes. Fuck that’s weird right? I like being the middle of the Venn diagram but I’m outside the circles. BOO HOO.
I remember once coming back from vacation with my family, driving against the clock to pick up our dogs from the kennel before they closed to avoid paying an extra day. My dad called called, stressed, told them we were running late because of massive traffic due to a bad accident. The woman on the other line simply told him that someone was having a worse day than he was.