Old School New School
Pavement Music, 1999
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 03/19/1999
There comes a time in every music reviewer's life where they react to an album in a way that was never expected, by the artist, the label, the publicists, or the reviewers themselves - the "Where the hell did that come from?" reaction.
I would have hated to be the publicist for Chicago-based metal/thrash outfit Lungbrush and have been watching me listen to their new album Old School New School, 'cause the scene would have been deceiving at first. The picture would have been the humble, overweight reviewer sitting at his computer, listening to the album on his PC, hearing the harsh lyrics... and laughing his ass off.
The material is not inherently funny. The songs are modern pictures of angst, anger and alienation. So why the fuck am I laughing at some of these songs - almost guaranteeing that the band would smack me around should I ever meet them on the street?
Well, I don't have the answer to that - and we'll get to the humor factor in a minute. But Lungbrush should be able to laugh off (no, wait, bad choice of words...) those thoughts, and savor the fact that they've made a killer metal album that brings both metal and grindcore into the next century.
Musically, Lungbrush is a tight, cohesive musical unit. The band - guitarist Jeff Holmes, bassist Jon Billman and drummer Ricardo Salinas - creates some great songs throughout the 14 tracks on Old School New School that remain interesting to listen to throughout the course of the album. It's interesting to hear the band shift from a more normal tempo into the double-bass frenzy of thrash on more than one occasion - and it gives me reason to start banging my head again.
Vocally, Lungbrush stands apart from many thrash/grindcore bands in that, for the most part, you can understand what lead throat Roach is actually singing/screaming about. (If you don't understand, the lyric sheet will help you out a lot.) There's almost a sneer in his vocals that reminds me of Lee Ving - you all remember Lee Ving, right, kids?
The subject matter of Old School New School is dark, and runs red with the blood of violence and pain. Tracks like "Lost," "Exit," "Heroin Suicide" and "For A Minute" all capture the anger and anguish in their rawest states - and it's a catharsis that leaves you feel drained after a while.
But why am I laughing at some of these tracks? Let's look at three in particular. Although the subject matters deal with dark subjects like prostitution ("Janie"), betrayal by friends ("Synthetic") and abandonment of life for the sake of drugs ("I Quit"), the wording and delivery of some of these lines is hilarious, albeit unintentional. These three songs, all very much thrash/grindcore tracks, are the ones I found myself laughing at, almost like I was listening to punk rock that was in on the joke. These three songs clock in at just under six minutes total, but they must be heard to be appreciated.
That's the key word; even though I was laughing, I appreciated these tracks, which are excellent songs. There's not a bad track on Old School New School, something that I can't say for many debut albums from artists in any genre.
Old School New School is an album that might just have some surprising effects on you like it did with me, but it will also reaffirm the belief (which I happen to hold) that metal is not only ready to make a comeback, but we may already be experiencing the early signs of its new glory days. That should be enough to put a smile on anyone's face.