“ALERT ALERT ALERT,” my inbox blared, “MONOSHOCK’S INSANE 1995 MASTERPIECE WALK TO THE FIRE HAS BEEN REISSUED AND IS AVAILABLE ON VINYL FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE LIKE 200 COOL PEOPLE FIGURED OUT THEY LIKE COOL THINGS ALMOST 20 YEARS AGO. GET OFF YOUR FAT STUPID LAZY ASS AND BUY IT. WE MEAN IT THIS TIME.”
Well okay. Have it your way, inbox. Get out there and buy buy buy I did. Because I am nothing if not a good little boy when it comes to appreciating the destroyed remnants of rock and roll.
What I’m about to say will immediately disqualify me as an authoritative source of reasoned discussion to the correct segment of people to whom I shall never be able to address myself confidently about things like this anyway: I hadn’t heard of it. At least not directly. And I hadn’t investigated either. I’m imagining some severe apoplexy happening in some very dingy rooms right now. How dare I. It’s cool, guys, I’m an admitted sham and I’m writing for both Chunklet (jokes) and Vice (young people on drugs). Proceed with caution.
The rest of you: This reissue is of an album that obliterated just about everything else back in 1995, but which through the lens of now is a rambling mess of excessive loser-psych guitar fuckage ladled overzealously onto rock-bash drums and selfserious post hardcore basslines and occasionally dimming in support of what sound like vocals pushed through a bullhorn into a high school auditorium’s hypersensitive mic jack. At the best of times the overbearing riffage pushes the envelope of tolerability, and often it lapses into a lugubriousness so startlingly immense it precludes any actual enjoyment and must be willfully endured. It is a gigantic, domineering, dense rage blackout of an album, tailor-made to inspire the kind of community college creative writing overdescription I’ve just put you through. Think of your journey through this paragraph as a frame of reference for what it’s like to listen to Walk To The Fire. You get through it and you know you’ve just done something.
As an album of music, I’m not even sure I like it. Don’t get me wrong, I can’t recommend it highly enough. But I might not even like it. It’s an unwieldy, overdone headache. For people who might like that kind of thing. You know, the genuinely masochistic, the fashionably masochistic, and the otherwise understimulated rock and roll fan. They’re good people, they just need (or pretend to need because they treat their music tastes like a game of chicken) to be bombarded with unpleasant high-volume noise in order to know they’re alive. Me, often enough. I’m surprised that isn’t all of us by now.
This Monoshock album is one of the big seminal monoliths in the cannon of “oh yeah, this is exactly the kind of thing I like” for those guys. There was a severe dearth of unpleasant high-volume noise in 1995, and it was almost impossible to find. It was like how you had to find porn in your parents’ closet or under some weird lawn chair in the woods. Even adult people with means had to go places and talk to people and read things and send MAIL to each other if they wanted to hear loud guitars or see some spread-open beavs. If you managed to find some, it was life-defining.
All of which adds up to a Walk To The Fire reissue in 2012 standing less on its own merits than as a symbol of a bygone era of music where, by bygone means, minds were still completely blown with some degree of regularity. It’s kind of sad. You get these “RUN RUN RUN GO GET THIS ONE” emails, and then you throw these things on the turntable and they’re like a little nickelodeon film reel of a train coming into the station with liner notes about how people in the theater used to freak out and think a locomotive was going to crush their legs. That magic is spoilt.
BUT (MASSIVE BUT): Holy shit, here I am talking about something somebody did. One specific thing. Can you believe it? In the year 2012, a thing can still be a thing if you deal with it correctly.
By “correctly” I mean buy music on a vinyl record. I’m not saying that’s the correct way to do things for any reason better than because if you buy some music on a vinyl record and it either sucks or doesn’t, you’ll know it and you’ll care. Vinyl sales have been on the rise (from “nobody buys records” levels to “sometimes white people like to buy records as kind of an interior decorating concept” levels) recently, and I’m pretty sure this is why. People are tired of having their identities spoonfed to them by adware. They wanna go out there and make some minor mistakes that they’re nonetheless going to have to live with. You shouldn’t be a series of clicks away from fundamentally altering who you are.
Buying a record, even a stupid one, is like getting a semipermanent Mumford & Sons tattoo on one sixtieth of a cubic foot of your available living space. It’s higher stakes than even running out of skips on a free Pandora channel, which itself represents a ludicrous amount of responsibility when compared to just, you know, ripping shit, or Spotify, or whatever people do these days that’s making everybody so upset. I don’t know these things.
I do know that experiencing music on vinyl will make you pay a little more attention to the fact that what you’re listening to is currently annoying the living fuck out of you, and more people doing that can only be good for music. Even if they’re just doing it so their lives look a little more like a Prius commercial. Maybe especially then, because a “Jesus, what is all this shit, why do I have four Okkervil River LPs rotting in my unused breakfast nook when I’m supposed to be a HUMAN BEING” day of reckoning is coming, and the sooner the better.
Good thing I’m not like that. No Shins for me, thanks, I’ve got a more dire set of aesthetics to mimic. I’m out there on the front lines buying Monoshock reissues because I was told to by somebody I trust whose brain has been all but destroyed by years of giving a shit about music (and drugs), to the point where they need to survive a nuclear explosion just to be able to get out of bed in the morning. Back in 1995 a lot of those types of people had more mind to blow, and I envy their nostalgia for it. So can you. It’s a free country, and there’s no sweeter freedom than spending a little cash to almost not like something even though it’s the kind of thing you think is great.