Music can stop time. A moment becomes infinity. And you never want it to stop, although you know it will be over any minute. It’s part what-is-happening surprise, part adrenaline endorphine, part something else that’s not quite beauty: Quality. It’s the same experience as when a close person says ‘I have to tell you something’ and you drop everything because your heart jumps and then falls so hard. It’s probably what dogs experience when they see a squirrel. Their ears go completely straight and if those dogs were waiters at a restaurant their plates would fall to the ground. That moment is the real prize of listening to music.
This sort of thing happened to me when I heard the song ‘Divine Times’. It gets everything right. I can’t even listen to that song while I write this, because I’m not able to focus words into sentences as soon as that droning abysmal bass announces the song, announces apocalyptic Divine Times coming. My mind goes Grrrrr doom aahhrr weeeooo. Of course, the sounds may not resonate with everyone. The song reminds me of playing the deepest bass pedal on the electronic organ and hearing the furniture rattle, and also of my mother playing Nico’s other-worldy voice in the kitchen. It resonates. There are many words I could use to express what it’s about for me. But in the end it’s just that: sounds and associations and the massive complicated web they form. The structure is not the song, but the way the sounds and snippets relate to other sounds and snippets from other songs and outside music.
Another part of the thrill is how unfamiliar it all is. To create something truly new out of the limited set of instruments and notes is extraordinary. It’s easy to find a new permutation of instruments and melodies that hasn’t been done before. But to make it shockingly NEW… Listen to ‘Message’. A hasty bass, and then a misleading rythm, and then nervous horn-like synths, and then an uncompromising voice. A whistle at the end! I am thinking Who thought of this? and How did they do it?… HOW?! I know there are many who can’t stand this type of music. Too nervous, too outspoken, too free. That’s exactly why I like it. It takes a certain amount of bravery to shape these sounds in this exact form. To keep it vaguely catchy as well is even better. That’s Quality.
Sure, a lot of it is reminiscent of The Raincoats. But after all these years, that sound is still a secret recipe. It’s hardly reproducible without losing everything it contains. WETDOG does it. It reinvents. It triggers my curiosity. It makes me look up what kind of place Winchester is because the harpsichord bit of that song has been in my head all day so I’ve been humming the word ‘Winchester’ uncontrollably. As far as I can gather, it’s an ugly boring bland place, which makes it all the more special that someone could write such a frivolous song about it.
In their relentless exploration and deconstruction of sound, WETDOG (capitals well-deserved) shows what music is for. The essence is self-expression. From self-expression follows liberation and empowerment.
I’ve probably thought about this review more than I usually do. I like to go with the moment of enthusiasm and just write down what I feel, but Divine Times deserves more. I’m failing miserably and my great idea of trying again after a few beers didn’t really work as I’m meta-reviewing at the moment which seems like a bad idea. Problem is I know the important concepts, but I don’t know how they relate. It’s a maddening puzzle. There is that thrill of hearing something that causes the world to stop, the way in which a song can be transforming, and then there are the sounds (at this level I feel it’s more about sounds than songs) that are surprising and original. And there is also the idea that whatever I like is connected to others things I liked like the music my mother plays or sounds I associate with specific times in my life, sounds that resonate.
And all that comes together in WETDOG, inexplicably. It’s good that almost no one reads what I write on this website, so I can keep this self-expression to myself. But someday, I will figure it out, and write about it. WETDOG is a clue. And a prime example of why I listen to music.
-- Caspar Jacobs, May 29, 2015