Noise-Rock Nihilism for This Living Nightmare

Following the US election on Nov 8, 2016, we asked Dowsers contributors to discuss the moods and music the results inspired. We collected their responses in a series, After the Election.

It’s the wee small hours of November 9: I wake up around 3:30 and can’t get back to sleep. Just one of those nights, it seemed. Since I hadn’t watched any of the election night coverage because television news sucks, I have no idea who won. I reluctantly grab my phone, click on HuffPo (more lamestream journalism, folks), and see the ghastly headline: “Nightmare: President Trump.” What the fuck just happened? A thick and heavy feeling of anxiety and disgust rips through my gut as though I’m trying to crap out an Ex-Lax-dusted anvil. I pace; I weep. My heart races; my head turns feverish. Pure evil is here.

I’ve since been able to gather myself — for the most part. Along with 2,000 other equally alarmed Americans (good people from all walks of life), I’ve marched here in Grand Rapids, Michigan, a battleground state, and called a long list of representatives. As for my soundtrack during these days (record nerds would fret over what jams to spin for an asteroid bashing into the planet), I’ve been listening to a lot of classic American music (folk, gospel, blues, soul), and that helps me stay motivated and anchored. Still, I experience stretches of nihilistic dejection when reality feels like a cosmic scam. It’s during these phases that my belief in love, peace, and understanding is chucked out the window; all I want to do is curse American mainstream society to hell. Screw Trump’s army of pasty white racists, and screw the smug neo-libs who enjoy undermining good Americans who try to forge progressive reforms. Hell, screw this entire empty, meaningless universe.

The soundtrack to these admittedly unhealthy states of mind is seething, eardrum-damaging noise-rock, industrial, electronic-tinged propulsion, and bummer metal: Sightings singer Mark Morgan’s choked screams, Scissor Girls’ manic and fidgety spazz-tantrums, Pissgrave’s stuttering blasts of pure decrepitude and down ‘n’ out vibes, God Bullies’ swirling eviscerations of small-minded yokels. What’s interesting to note about noise-rock (as well as its related movements) is its non-affiliation in terms of politics. I mean, sure, most of these bands save their most intense viciousness for Repugs and deranged Bible bangers (when they’re that explicit, of course), yet it has to be noted that the Clinton years witnessed an explosion of virulent badasses, including Six Finger Satellite and KARP. Some musicians are pissed off no matter who is in office. Mainstream normalcy in and of itself is to be rejected.

The irony is that all this cacophony, like therapy, actually sets me straight (though this wasn’t always the case in my self-loathing, pre-dad years, when hard booze and other substances weren’t infrequent). These bands are so committed to loud, writhing, horrid music that they wind up creating beautifully ugly artwork, and that’s 1000% life affirming. Think about it: beauty from ugliness. Maybe that’s something those fighting the good fight in modern AmeriKKKa can achieve in the coming years?