We live in an era in which everything means nothing and nothing is the least ugly thing in town, so it stands to reason that rock n’ roll iconoclasm isn’t as potent as it once was-in fact I’d argue that it’s been tossed away completely right atop of a pile of smashed Nine Inch Nails synthesizers. It also stands to reason that with the end of iconoclasm comes a downgrade to mere cleverness, and from that a replacement of good risk-taking with bad risk-taking, that being the sole risk that comes with using cleverness only to come off as “clever assholes” first and musicians second. This is, of course, one of the least important things that people who listen to music, and probably hate music criticism (my dad), look for in a band, but these are tools available to bands that, however large or small their effect, can determine how much a listener is willing to trust a band when they apply such tools-assuming of course that trust is an important value in any endeavor if it is to be enjoyed in the slightest. So when I see a record by a band entitled Suicides Don’t Commit Themselves I take it as a challenge on the part of the band for me to clearly see that their cleverness complements rather than complicates their music.
The title also challenges me to make certain preconceived notions about what Locks might sound like. Are they hardasses? Are they Albini-clones? Are they talentless feedback-mongers? Are they boring post-emo? Are they talentless and boring? Or are they genuinely transgressive minstrels? Sadly I failed to overcome the challenge and made several preconceived notions, and color me cynical if I didn’t think they’d be the last item, and lo, they’re not, nor do I think that was their intention anyway. But what, if anything, are they?
For one, they’re a band who like their bass instruments aggressive, pounding, guitar-like-in fact, as it appeared on a video I saw of one of their performances, it may well be a guitar-making for a minimalism that isn’t entirely skin and bones as is usually the case, rather it is defined with muscle, sores, and sweat. Unlike their bass, however, they prefer their vocals meek, droning, and at times indecipherable, and their lyrics, by extension (and when they can be heard), nonsensical. Their guitar (or at least their traditional guitar) is similarly meek, but also their main source of any melody which is used somewhat sparingly, either because they are just generally low key or they prefer using the host of other random sounds and samples decorating the tracks. Either way we come away with an arty minimalist act that does what it can to make the best of a love of playfulness and a conflicting desire for straightforward composition and sparse production. The results are a mish-mash naturally. Botched executions by way of misfired ideas leave gangrenous wounds rather than astonishing, beautiful kills. The duo love to be weird, they love to say weird things and make weird noises. They want to make fun of the art school kids, but are unsure as to whether or not they want to make it ironic seeing that they themselves might as well be art school kids if they aren’t already.
These resulting quirks and passions can, at times, make for aggravating listening if one does not like atonal tinkering of perfectly decent chords and needless sounds and voices thrown at in no discernable direction. The opening track “That Won’t Get Blood Out of a Clown Suit” is a highly imperfect amalgam of freewheeling prog rock and basement-dwelling creep rock. If I didn’t know better I would believe that a crazy person wrote that song and, failing to impress the Beach Boys, started a shitty hippie cult whose followers he convinced to go on a senseless killing spree. And yet at times the result is also intriguing. Their talent for crafting fluid repetition renders naked the potential for the first seven minutes of “Whatever It Takes to Sleep” to be stretched to at least 20 while keeping whatever room it is played in filled with youthful, somewhat drunken lushness. At times they even seem to wish to regulate their eccentricities so as to make possible the existence of some decent songs on their record. “The Sergeant’s Daughter” is a crisp, well-arranged bit of oddball pop with solid rhythm but gives no short shrift to their eccentricities, using them instead to convey an expressive desire as opposed to a freakish one. The same can be said of other songs on the albums latter half, including the ghostly closer “Smokers Cough.”
So depending on what you hear you either have an immature indie band which likes to throw around ideas and mix them together sloppily and undisciplined like a tart cart-riding This Heat or an earnest but awkward rock band which has pretty songs but with an irregular point-of-view, which they maybe can or cannot control. In essence, their stupid title, while needless, can be sourced from either personality. It’s both childish and goofy or a sign of supreme insecurity over their weird little sound. So I concede that, given my mixed reaction, their label is right to describe them as “unpredictable,” a trait of theirs which they, rather predictably, will likely abuse as time goes on making them at times dangerous and at times transfixing. I don’t trust this band at all, but they could make a compelling case that trust is kind of overrated anyway.