As much as I appreciate technical skill in rock-musicianship, there comes a point when execution and knowledge of musical theory begin to feel empty in and of themselves. Yeah, you can play your instrument and you know all the scales, but what does that mean to me? What are you expressing, trying to evoke in me?
Now, my musical palate spans a wide gamut from classical to metal, to blues, bluegrass, and ragtime, to even a little pop now and again. But one thing I believe is that skill without heart and emotion is just masturbation. And sometimes the best way to express said heart and emotion is to strip away your art to its rawest and most vulnerable state, free of its outer layers of protective varnish.
As the painter Jackson Pollack did with pigments, so do with sounds and melodies. Just let everything explode and see what happens.
And in 2013, that’s precisely what ‘68 did.
Merging neo-blues riffs á la The White Stripes with galumphing drums and fuzzed-out guitar work of ‘80s hardcore, the two-piece band, consisting of percussionist Michael McClellan and guitarist/vocalist Josh Scogin, channels the sheer insanity of avant-garde noise-rock but cranked to a thirteen! Progressions and time signatures shift regularly. Feedback becomes an instrument in itself. The harsh vocals curdle the listener’s blood. Everything feels off the cuff. Nothing feels forced. Yet the overall composition can only be described as “pure.”
This sounds the way standing in a hurricane must feel.
How can a two-piece make so much goddamn noise?
There is only one guitar, one drummer, one eccentric voice shrieking vagaries into the wind. Yet everything about their mix sounds full and expansive, as though they had a full band behind them. There hasn’t been a band this raw and sludgy, yet so genuinely authentic in its musical intentions, since Mudhoney first put Seattle on the counterculture map.
But ‘68 is not just another copycat of past tried and true acts. And though this is another of Scogin’s creative outlets, this is not Norma Jean, either. This is not The Chariot. There is no mainstream gloss. This is not FM alt-radio-friendly. This is an unexpected glass of cold water thrown in your face on a blustery day. As equally shocking as it is satisfying.
In an age dominated by polished pop sensationalism, this is punk. Pure “do it your own way and consequences be damned” ethos, the pinnacle of minimalist expression. This is art that cannot be manufactured. Take it in. Feel it throb inside your ears, inside your heart. Let it take you to corners of creativity traditionally blocked off with caution tape and “Do Not Enter” signs.
Then, you go make something amazing too.
Make sure you catch ’68 at Louder Than Life in Louisville, KY.