Vaz

Dying to Meet You

(Gold Standard Labs)

Release date: Aug 31, 1999

These guys are weird, but not in some easily-digestible, eight-second spazzcore, wearing tea-cozies on their heads kind of way. When the record opens, you'd be forgiven for thinking you'd accidentally thrown on some latter-day iteration of Bleach, what with the speedy clattering drums and fuzzy guitars and the over-emotive, throaty vocals. But I mean, this is on GSL (home of Lightning Bolt for chrissakes!) and they wouldn't put us on to anything that smacked of being less than fresh, not anything so gauche as mining (wait for it...) grunge!

So seeing as it's on GSL, you're inclined to give it a moment, wait until the, y'know, ironic deconstruction begins. But then (and this is the weird part), well, it never really does. Instead, Vaz decide to take the entirely strange route of merely rocking ass, throwing in a lot of SST, mining their Hammerhead roots. I'll go out on a limb here and say that, for the most part, this whole "sincerity" schtick works. You know, for what it is. Sure, I'd rather have a preening 12-minute remix of a disco-punk b-side any day, but if you have to listen to something vaguely reminiscent of a more song-oriented Melvins, you could do a lot worse than this.

I know, I know, you're disappointed. You saw the pictures of the drummer dressed as a roman centurion, you saw that nice thick mustache the singer's cultivated, and you figured, "Hey, these guys look funny!" But I assure you, my friend, there is nothing funny at all about tracks like "White World of Death". I mean, you can sort of hear this dirge-like moaning just under the minor-key bridge, and you can sort of imagine how they might've put that way up in the mix, and made it more of a wailing cacophony, or even better, a falsetto wailing cacophony, and really had something hilarious. But as it is, you can barely make it out under the unrelenting drums and crushing guitars, so, you know, no knee-slappers there.

You start thinking things might get better at the end of "Headless Statue", when the song kind of breaks down and they start doing a sort of little free jazz thing, and the guitarist is bending the strings all crazy and picking way up on the headstock so it makes that little ping-ping-ping sound, but then they cut it short after no more than 20 seconds, and that's the end of the song. I don't know about you, but I prefer my favorite bands to play imitation free-jazz breakdowns that last at least ten minutes, not just as a way to end a song but as a really good way to scare off all those posers.

Okay, okay, I'll stop. You caught me. I'm not being entirely fair to the band -- or, for that matter, straightforward with my loyal (heh) PopMatters readership. No, this record is not likely to hit it big in the hipster sweepstakes -- they're about five years too early to even be the bleeding edge of an early '90s revival. But somehow they slipped under the radar of the metal-mods at GSL just by making a high-quality rock record. And while I could go on for a while and in some detail attempting to describe all their low-end fuzz and smoky tenor vocals and skull-shattering drums, really the best way for you to figure out that they're the real deal is that they've managed to put out a record on a hipster label while not only making patently unhip music but also looking not a minute younger than 35. Yes, they rock that well.

And I'm saving this for the end because it risks so badly undercutting the entire thesis of my first four snarky paragraphs, but there is an ever-so-slight whiff of theatre here. The most overt bit is "Give Us the Creeps", a goofball circusy bit that can be easily dismissed as an outlyer. But, particularly later in the record, you do start getting this vague sense that this might -- and I repeat might -- be a put-on. It' s hard to quantify, exactly, but I mean, c'mon -- two grown men, in 2003, doing something that sounds as much like primo sludgy Mudhoney as "Freon Suite #2"? They couldn't possibly be entirely serious.

Track Listing

  1. 1. They've Won
  2. 2. Blue Lip Special
  3. 3. Elastik-C
  4. 4. White World of Death
  5. 5. Headless Statue
  6. 6. White Wall
  7. 7. Give Us the Creeps
  8. 8. I.V.
  9. 9. Freon Suite #2
  10. 10. Drive-by Swordfight
  11. 11. Metal Egg
  12. 12. Kill the Strings
  13. 13. A Crown in My Future
  14. 14. Fired Eye Quilt