Justin Payne & Co. – you’re so subversive
Genre: Punk, Indie Rock, Alternative Rock
Nobody ever liked Lou Reed. Sure, everyone respected him, and many people would chant, “Genius, genius” as he walked by. But this is equally a result of admiration and fear that they’d get picked on by a notorious bully. It must’ve been the same story for ol’ Lou from the cradle onward. And look at him now. He is honoured, and rightfully so, by every magazine and website that wants to stay in business.
It’s not easy to be actively unlikeable. And it’s not very productive in the short term. You won’t make friends, nobody will want to help you achieve your goals, and people will whisper nasty things about your personal hygiene. But if you manage to drive through all these setbacks, if you create an uncompromising vision as a true-blue misanthrope, you will be able to join Lou Reed or Mark E. Smith among the legends.
Justin Payne & Co. do not sound like the kind of people I’d like to meet over a game of bridge. They sound bitter and like they haven’t slept in days. Maybe that’s what makes “you’re so subversive” such an interesting piece of lo-fi alt-rock. Basing the song around a word that tech gurus like almost as much as “disruptive,” Justin Payne creates a kind of melodic hate post song. And it’s just lovely.
Bad Rat? – Death Comes for the Archbishop
Genre: Electronica, Alternative Rock
If you could pinpoint the thing that is lacking most in modern music, what would it be? Sure, there are plenty of songs that feature good production, some qualified players, and even the frequent nod to the past. But what about imagination? Inventiveness seems to have become a prerequisite of an entirely different era. It’s become so that most observant listeners will be able to guess what the chorus will be by the time they’ve heard the first verse.
Of course, if you were having this exact debate with a high-ranking music label official, they’d tell you that this is just a consequence of what is demanded. In order to appease most audiences, they claim, new songs must feel familiar, must be simple enough to be turned in a TikTok video and must never confuse potential new listeners. However, judging by some of the media popular these days, audiences are quite capable of handling artistic complexity.
“Death Comes for the Archbishop” by Bad Rat? is dubbed a laptop opera by its author, and there’s arguably no better way to describe it. The music is constructed almost like a gloomy graphic novel written during the era in which emo-rock reigned supreme. And while the production is stubbornly lo-fi, the singing glides pretty comfortably into James Maynard Keenan’s vocal territory. What Bad Rat? does possess is imagination and a willingness to let it travel to wherever it must go.