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Total Shutdown - Live

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Artist: Total Shutdown

Album: Live

Label: Ecstatic Yod

Review date: Feb. 22, 2006

Recorded live at San Francisco's tiny Edinburgh Castle venue, this album crackles and hisses with overloaded intent and crazed heavy-noise-punk-metal-jazz. Total Shutdown are well-known in their home town for excessive...well, everything. This recording certainly has some roughness about it, which serves them well since sonic fidelity doesn't seem to be their primary concern. The energy and mayhem translate fairly well.

This short EP (a 45rpm 12” slab of vinyl, yes vinyl) shows both the good and the bad from Total Shutdown. They careen crazily from simple stomping heaviness to in-the-red noise overload, flailing through random cacophony on the way. I suppose "death jazz" might be the most apt signifier here, as they mix death-metal vocals with some adept time changes and sax bleating.

When the band moves as a unit, stopping and starting together, it effectively pulls you down into the maelstrom and stomps on your head. But they are exemplars of the short attention span, with the attendant pluses and minuses. Both the good parts and the bad parts swirl by quickly, leaving vague impressions of each. The band will compress gravity for a moment, and you'll think "cool," and then suddenly that's already past and they're busily taking apart some piece of equipment in a moment of random noise and disconnected phlegm dispersal.

One of the hardest lessons to learn is the balance between brevity and explication; too little is left unsaid, while too much, of course, is all too common. So perhaps Total Shutdown err on the correct side, but nonetheless these songs often just get out of the garage before they turn around and, well, shut it down. Even within the same song, the band are afraid to commit, and feel the need to switch gears every minute or so. It'd be nice to let things sink in a bit more, and let the music have the chance to say something before moving on. As it is, the songs are castrated before they have the chance to breed.

Be that as it may, Live does contain plenty of fun moments, and on an EP as brief as this, perhaps that's enough.

By Mason Jones

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