photo manipulation by nacrowe
as i probably made abundantly clear in a recent review of the book MEET ME IN THE BATHROOM about the early 2000s stateside indie music scene, i have a strong bias against rock music of that period. my main gripe was that the bands generally were too nostalgic and ultimately poor imitations of bygone scenes and eras.
two forward-thinking bands that standout during that period who obliterated that safety net were EL PASO's AT THE DRIVE-IN and LONG ISLAND's GLASSJAW. both were abrasive and quirky and seemed to be informed but not beholden to the POST-PUNK, HARDCORE and INDIE scenes that preceded them.
i'll save AT THE DRIVE-IN for another day, but in my mind both bands are similar in that they seemed to delight in creating obtuse sonic and lyrical landscapes that were impressionistic and expansive which allowed the listener to project themselves onto. GLASSJAW to me is particularly all about vibe. vocalist DARYL PALUMBO is renowned for his phrasing style which is equal parts CHINO MORENO (DEFTONES, TEAM SLEEP, CROSSES, PALMS) and MIKE PATTON (FAITH NO MORE, MR. BUNGLE, FANTÔMAS, TOMAHAWK, PEEPING TOM, LOVAGE), which found him changing keys and tempos as he saw fit creating a jarring yet incredibly melodic compliment to guitarist JUSTIN BECK's crushing angular riffage and reverb-drenched ringing waves of distortion. the closest analogue i can think of is JANE'S ADDICTION and TOOL at their most expansive and adventurous, when they seemed content with just exploring sonic space to create hypnotic looping mantras of blissful feedback and poly-rhythmic drumming.
to me GLASSJAW split the difference between the brutality and immediacy of HARDCORE with the dynamism and experimentalism inherent in the best INDIE music of the 80s and 90s. i'd even trace their use of odd song structure elements and instrumentation to that of earlier POST-PUNK tradition. that's all well and good, but to me their music comes off as incredibly deliberate and personal, without being obvious. they are definitely pointing at something and i just haven't figured it out yet and maybe that is the point. great art is supposed to be about a reaction and i have always listened back to their catalogue to remind myself of what rock music is still capable of.