Like anyone else with a taste for Sonic Youth or old, scratchy records, I can appreciate a good blast of noise now and then. While I tend to favor more melodic records, every now and then it just feels good to hear things squeak, squawk, belch, throttle and explode. I’ve recently become a fan of Lightning Bolt and Black Dice and as of right now, I’m absolutely enraptured by Dan Friel, member of Parts and Labor and absolute bloody genius.
Allow me to explain. Sunburn, Friel’s debut EP, is short, sweeet and cacophonous. By most people’s standards, it would seem annoying or not musical, but those who have tasted the noisiest of the noisy can say that it’s a brilliant piece of work. In a way, it’s extremely catchy and melodic. Most of the songs actually are songs. They have a melody and a beat and what would appear to be different parts, though there are no vocals to speak of, so there aren’t really any choruses or verses to speak of.
Friel makes all of his sounds with toy keyboard, walkie talkie, guitar pedals, a 5-string guitar and just about any inexpensive piece of equipment he can find on eBay. Interestingly enough, it’s all distorted and screechy, but Friel makes even the most tinnitus inducing squeals sound appealing. Songs like “deadbatteries” and “tractorcalls” are more ambient in nature, featuring less-structured melodies, though they make a pleasant noise. “Greenlights” and “death” are almost straightforward sounding punk songs, short, snotty and loud. There’s even something of a ballad in “7 Sisters,” which makes a sweeter sounding squeal over a slower-paced tempo.
Sunburn is a very weird debut, but it’s accessible and melodic enough to warrant many repeated listens. It’s an outstanding debut from one of the most innovative musicians around. And to think, up until now, I had never even heard of the guy.
Lightning Bolt – Wonderful Rainbow
Parts and Labor – Groundswell
Black Dice – Beaches and Canyons
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.