Greg Boring ‘Heavy Syrup’ (Critical Heights)
LP / CD / DL
Released 11 February 2013
All sorts of stuff finds its way into the LTW mailbox and Cath Aubergine was intrigued as to what sort of music might originate from someone called Greg Boring. Clue: it’s not a singer-songwriter.
Nothing like a nice cup of what-the-fuck to brighten up your day, is there?
Greg Boring is, or are, from Brisbane: this much we know (probably). This is, frankly, all we need to know: in place of tedious streams of tour van images and biographical irrelevance, Greg Boring offers “It’s the second truly expressionist idea of rock ‘n’ roll. Make a band around you, give it your name, and then disappear” and “Boring’s equal devotion and dismissal of their own musical project creates a picture-perfect ambiguity… Performances are devised around avoidances”. Is this a ridiculously pretentious art statement, a knowing pastiche of ridiculously pretentious art statements, or both? Anti-marketing as marketing, even down to the name… there’s half a thesis here already for some student of the 21st century media game, and we’ve not even opened to music files yet. Wouldn’t it be great if there was nothing in there at all, and the reviews already published – there aren’t many, but bizarrely The Financial Times has awarded it the thumbs-up – were mere rewrites of the obtuse and manifesto-styled press release?
That said, despite all the uninformation “Heavy Syrup” turns out to be one of the more appropriately titled albums of recent times. Certainly heavy, at least in terms of literal density as opposed to any musical definition of the word, maybe it’s more of a stew than a syrup: a thick, viscous stew in which readily identifiable ingredients float past from time to time. Analogue bubbles, synthpop blueprints, motorik undercurrents, sequences of things that could almost be songs. Not that they seem particularly keen on welcoming in the quizzical Financial Times reader or indeed anyone else (even those attuned to the avant-garde) – the opening “Denuder” sounding largely like some drunk people all playing completely different tunes at once on broken synthesisers. “Fine Find Fined” meanwhile was apparently a single, that thing whereby a band isolates one track from their repertoire to represent themselves in bite-sized society, and sounds like Stereolab recorded onto tapes, cut up, reassembled, slowed down and played underwater. By this point either the soup absorbs you or you go “is it meant to sound like that?” and go and make a cup of tea instead.
The weird thing, assuming you don’t go for the brew option, is that for all the increasingly obvious intentions of deconstructing the conventional architecture of pop, some of these tracks end up oddly hypnotic. The aforementioned single (so it probably was a good choice), for one, as well as “Huh” which is actually really good: there’s something weirdly My Bloody Valentine-like about the way the female vocals drift half submerged in a pile of dissonant, tone-bent instrumental themes. Then there’s the final “Night Moves”, a brilliant eight minutes of shimmering, interwoven bleepery, murmurings and pulsating drone. It does get heavy in the -going sense on the way there, though: little is added to what could otherwise maybe have been better as an EP by the rather half-formed sketches that are “Alvin” and “About Time”.
Mind you, the manifesto pretty much told us there’d be bits of that on it: that “the intent lies in construction and development above fame or perfection.” Exactly where along the line from factual honesty to deliberate self-parody this document and indeed the album originated may be unclear but you can’t deny they achieved their objective. What now, though? “Make a band around you, give it your name, and then disappear.” Ah, right, OK. See you then, and thanks for an interesting afternoon…