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Giddy Motors - Make It Pop!

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Artist: Giddy Motors

Album: Make It Pop!

Label: FatCat

Review date: Mar. 13, 2003

Extemporaneous Rhythms

The Chicago noise-rock scene of the early-to-mid-‘90s co-opted the no-wave white noise of its ‘80s New York counterpart, but added a smirk to the morbid attitude and a swagger to the rhythm section. Bands like Big Black and the Jesus Lizard still sounded like they were going to stab you in the face, but unlike Swans or Suicide, they were going to do it with a smile. And while Sonic Youth and other Glenn Branca progeny attacked with massed guitar clusters, the Chicago bands limited their guitar parts to occasional squawks or single-string riffs. The emphasis was on the rhythm - lumbering bass lines and John Bonham drums. And now, coming out of South London, Giddy Motors provide the logical extension of the Chicago sound, expanding the song times and layering percussion to create clattering, crumbling cacophony.

The influences are obvious: Giddy Motors sound more than a little like the aforementioned Jesus Lizard, especially the overdriven bass and the raving derelict vocals. Steve Albini produced Make It Pop! and his Shellac-mate Todd Trainer is credited as “Minnesotan" on ‘Whirled By Curses.’” About half the time, singer-guitarist Gaverick de Vis and drummer-bassist Manu Ros are little more than a solid imitation of their predecessors. Opener “Magmanic” is the album’s most traditionally guitar-focused cut, shifting gears from bombast to dazed stupor but never quite breaking free from its Chi-Town inspirations. “Sassy” is more of the same, but punctuated with falsetto exclamations of “Woooh!” and “You asshole!” On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have “Venus Medallist,” an instrumental with acoustic guitars and cello. Although it’s pretty, it’s hard to take seriously in the middle of an album this willfully abrasive.

Giddy Motors are much more successful when they slow the tempo and accentuate the rhythm, creating space for the songs to stretch and grow. In “Hit Cap,” de Vis pecks at his guitar with the side of the plectrum, the drums trip over themselves, the bass blurts, and the sax squawks. Every instrument acts as percussion, dividing the beat into smaller and smaller segments. Only about one-quarter of the singing is intelligible, but the abstract vocals become another cadence. The second half of the song is instrumental, erupting into a frenzy of conga and tambourine. The congas reappear on “Whirled by Curses,” which simultaneously invokes Liquid Liquid and Mr. Bungle, and maracas punctuate the jazzy “Bottle Opener.” “Cranium Crux” features four different drum parts: a distorted background loop, overdubbed fills, and two perfectly synchronized live drum tracks. This takes some of the pressure off of the vocals, allowing de Vis to turn in a relatively restrained performance of raspy crooning. Even the straightforward Beefheart blues of “Dog Hands” is knocked off-kilter by unexpected drum accents during the verses.

Giddy Motors is a band that realizes the power of percussion. In their best moments, they use this knowledge to evoke an eponymous giddiness and a loose, “anything-might-happen” atmosphere. This spontaneity serves them well, suggesting equal measures of frivolous violence and volatile fun.

By Nick Ammerman

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