Dance of the Headless Bourgeoisie and Super Milk
NomeansNo and Ultra Bidé
Reviewed by Megan Shaw
Sunday, November 01 1998, 2:19 AM
NoMeansNo are Canadian grand masters of bone-deep rock and roll strong enough to lift you off the ground. Their eleventh album, The Dance of the Headless Bourgeoisie is an hour-and-fifteen-minute romp through their usual territories of fantastic imageries that range from the Biblical and the medieval, to the nightmares of modern society. Their songs are a series of button-tight weaves of bass, drum, and guitar that explore rhythmic and harmonic complexities and nuances with great ease. The drum and bass playing Wright brothers create a musical sympatico that is bred from a lifetime of playing music together. Their songs are spare and clock-like in their precision, and are consistently moving and energetic. The lyrics of the title track are a graphic horror story parable of the threat that consumer society makes on a man's family. NoMeansNo wrote a song from the point of view of money-grubbers threatening a man's wife, son, and daughter in turn.
"Youth," "This Story Must Be Told," and "Life-Like" use the language of myth, fantasy, and Biblical literature to describe sweet dreams and nightmare visions of life and death struggles, revenge, and adventure. "Youth" has the sound of a band had just been reading Tolkien when they wrote their songs. "This Story Must Be Told" sound like Tolkien after he's been mugged. The Dance of the Headless Bourgeoisie's songs are filled with images of towers, horizons, empty skies, sunsets, and stone faces, filled with angry narratives of violence and rape; and also upbeat narratives of the joy of being alive. "Give Me the Push" is classic NoMeansNo, a contemplation of the emotional state one is in at the moment one realizes that the will to live is a personal decision NoMeansNo have always made philosopher rock. They've never been better at it.
The Ultra Bidé album Super Milk sounds like a soundtrack for a fast paced adventure through a bare urban landscape peopled by frantic folk shouting their ills through voice-distortion boxes accompanied by electric guitars, random trumpet solos, and the clanging of hollow metal pipes. New Yorkers Ultra Bidé are originally from Japan, and sometimes add Japanese lyrics to their primarily English songs. Their music has the kind of raw energy that is probably best enjoyed live, but this album is catchy if you're in the right mood. Ultra Bidé's anarchist politics are plainly spoken, but not deeply explored: "drive me crazy capitalism/drive me crazy socialism/drive me crazy economism/drive me crazy militarism," is one lyric, the political point to which is clarified by the tender love song "Honey You So Good!" which refrains: "I wanna be your mind slave/I wanna be your anarchist."
Alternative Tentacles Records, http://www.alternativetentacles.com/