Six Finger Satellite - "Half Control" (Half Control)
In 1999, J. Ryan and Rick Pelletier reconstituted the infamous post-punk Providence band Six Finger Satellite, enlisting Joel Kyack and Shawn Greenlee of Landed on guitar and bass, and taking to the studio to record Half Control. The album never got released for reasons unknown to this reviewer, but what is clear is that the Six Finger Satellite of then is a very different band from the Six Finger Satellite of back then, the version that included Juan, né John, MacLean. While previous versions of the band weren’t pushovers by any means, they were never quite as flat out aggressive as this current group. Listening to Paranormalized or Law of Ruins, you hear a band that was interested in pushing the limits of noise and abrasion while still keeping everything fairly upbeat and playful (one need look no further than the silly panning effects and Brainiac synths on “Do the Suicide” from Paranormalized). Hell, they were almost danceable.
But this band is much more a hardcore band than that band was. MacLean must have taken his synths and dance beats with him. We’re left with riffs and riffs and more riffs. Songs like “Thrown Out” or “A Tighter Passage” stand almost entirely on overdriven guitars and Ryan’s voice, which doesn’t seem like quite enough. In other places like “Live Legs,” the synths do come back, but they serve as mere placeholders, a different sound to play the initial riff before ceding ground to Greenlee’s pummeling bass lines. By taking away the aural wink in the music (as exemplified by the synths I keep harping on), the band has lost a good deal of what made them appealing. And hearing songs like “Artificial Light,” where the group backs off a bit, turning down the volume and toning down the guitars, you get a glimpse of what the band was.
Now, I suppose I shouldn’t be so harsh on these guys for wanting to soldier on and make new music, nor should I denigrate a band for evolving and changing membership. I mean, the past decade alone has seen about a dozen different lineups for the Fall. But when a group’s identity is so predicated on its particular sound, as Six Finger Satellite’s was, it’s difficult for me to cut them slack. I also realize that my description of this sound is rather vague, based more on an intuitive reaction to this record versus their older ones, but the difference seems to be legit, noticeable, and more than moderately off-putting.