August 3, 1999
Veterans Of Disorder
Rumours of their life have been much exaggerated....
8 / 10
Rumours of their life have been much exaggerated. For ten years now, Neil Hagerty and Jennifer Herrema have been walking with zombies, flirting with shadows, and storing what's left of the spirit of rock'n'roll in a leaky cryogenic chamber down in the basement of their backwoods hideout.
Captured by the needle-sharp mythology of self-destruction, they know that living forever is overrated; better to keep up an endless process of dying, of killing it all off, freeze-framing that ultimate moment of rock sickness. Under the battered denim and tipped stetsons, the shaggy hair and transparent skin, they keep on hanging on. And they drag this music behind them.
'Veterans Of Disorder' is the work of a band who've fought many campaigns of discomfort, waged many wars of unlistenability, and in their mellower years have hit upon a sound that sounds like the creep of time-lapsed musical death. For two people who sound like they can barely lift their heads off the pillow in the morning (or late afternoon) it's a strategy that takes endless reinvention, shooting the same wasted youth from a panorama of different angles. It might be a Disneyland of decadence - all your favourite rock legends here! Watch them nod, wave and fall over! - but the glistening artificiality is part of its lunatic appeal, hidden in the subliminal electronic hum of 'Second Skin', the precision-engineered collapse of '!Yo Se!', the Sensurround thrum of the flawless 'Waterpark'.
Hagerty and Herrema are reanimators, make-up-wielding morticians touching up on-the-slab riffs with a rosy flush. Like those ghoulish coach tours where a few grubby dollars buy you a trip round the sites of sordid star misadventures, they haul you past all the landmarks: 'Lunch Money' looming skeletally from a doorway on Main Street, say, or the wormy mass of 'Stop' washing up against the Dock Of The Bay. While there's nothing quite as lurid as 'The Banana Question' or 'Juicy Juicy Juice' from last year's 'Accelerator', they still make enervation fun.
On the hideous honky tonk of 'Coming Out Party', Herrema yowls about "strawberries for breakfast, chocolate for lunch", "two highballs for 50 cents" and the amateur playboy lifestyle that "rhymes with bullshit" as someone behind her vomits through a variety of woodwind instruments. And a piano.
It's a ridiculous record. They're a ridiculous band. Yet somehow, in the depths of the kind of brains generally pickled for 'medical research', lurks a musical truth. The rock passing-out parade passes out here.
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