Fatal Flying Guilloteens - "Reveal the Rats" (Quantum Fucking)
There’s a never-fail intensity to distorted angular guitars, herky-jerky rhythms and urgently yelped vocals. The recipe is as overused and clichéd as the very descriptions of it, but nonetheless mathy, arty punk will always get certain bodies moving. On their 2001 debut album for Estrus Records, The Now Hustle For New Diaboliks, Houston ’s Fatal Flying Guillotines used that formula as a rudimentary base and smoked it with all manner of hot, sticky blues-punk licks and derelict Texas fuzz. The Jesus Lizard and Pop Group were merely the first records pulled off the top of the stack when inspiration was sought, but Lightinin’ Hopkins obviously wasn’t buried too far below. The end product was like a greasier version of the Circus Lupus or a more spastic version of Poison 13.
The band’s recent jump to Les Savy Fav’s Frenchkiss Records represents more than a mere lateral label shift, though. The Guillotines have virtually abandoned all that made them unique, and sound uncomfortably similar to their new benefactors. With that said, songs like “Illegal Weapons Party” and “Reveal the Rats” display a seasoned band bristling with an art damaged intensity; the low-end screams David Simms, the guitars have a harsh, clanging familiarity, and the tourettic rhythms and changes are crisp nearly to a fault. Everything is perfectly in place, but it’s just not enough, especially for a band now on its third album. Even the title, Quantum Fucking, feels like a paint-by-numbers attempt at a transgressive stance within a post-punk/hardcore academy seemingly fresh out of ideas. If going forward has now come to mean cleaning off the grime, sharpening the edges, and codifying the music-making process to such a degree, then by all means, bands once this good should regress. While Quantum Fucking isn’t a bad record, it represents the degree to which this sound has become so commonplace. Unfortunately, it’s hard to avoid the word formulaic.
In their early days, particularly on their first few singles, the Guillotines injected the post-Touch & Go sound (the label’s “classic” sound if you will) with a sort of roots swagger that was similar in spirit to the aesthetic nihilism the Country Teasers brought to a parochial garage sound. Both took a potentially formulaic genre and slapped it around a bit. The Country Teasers are still out there throwing sucker punches, but on Quantum Fucking the Fatal Flying Guillotines pick math punk up off the floor, make nice, and buy it an ice cream.