Greg Saunier (Deerhoof) Reviews Eric Slick’s ‘Palisades’

What is noise, anyway?


Oh, what is noise anyhow? This Eric guy is not even hitting his cymbals! As you know, cymbals are the instruments of noise. Therefore, I do not categorize this as noise, but, rather, melodies plus harmonies.

You may notice the melody and harmony now and again clashing with each other, but, please, that is what makes it extra-pretty. It can cause HarmonyPlus. If that term is unfamiliar to some readers, it is because it is being deployed for the very first time in this review. What I mean is this: it is OK for Eric’s chord to be C Major but his melody to sing D and B and A and B, none of which are in a C Major chord? Or perhaps think of HarmonyPlus this way: if I bumped into you on the sidewalk and I sang Eric’s melody in your ear, you’d think I was singing you an ancient folk air in the key of G Major, and not at all suspect that I was actually singing a brand-new noise-rock track in C Major.

OK, so maybe it is noise. Noise is random sound? Noise is sounds you don’t like? Noise is sound that doesn’t resolve? I feel that the heart that wrote these songs is unresolved. Or more likely it is a heart that does not seek or expect resolution; another way of saying it is a human heart that resides on this planet.
Also, if I bumped into you on the sidewalk and I sang Eric’s songs, you would think I was just singing some quarter notes on the beat. You’d perhaps be reminded of other songs, like “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” What you would almost definitely not realize is that I’m singing NOTHING BUT OFF-BEATS. You simply are unable to hear the beat because the traffic is too loud, and also I’m not singing that part. This is invisible syncopation. And invisible syncopation heart-rend occurs when Eric sings his off-beat melodies and a note from the previous chord hangs over into the next chord, but it doesn’t match the next chord. It is like a chocolate bar where you can quantify the percentage of bitter and the percentage of sweet. And Palisades is at 50%.

This music is the opposite of noise! There’s more noise on a Lawrence Welk record. Perhaps this recording is actually the musical “score” for these songs, which are meant to be covered later. They would be so easy to cover, because they are memorable. And nothing against Eric’s voice, but his is an “Anyone” voice. Less the throat of Beyoncé or Syd Barret, but more the throat of Eddie Money or Alan Parsons Project.

OK, I admit the guitar has a fuzz pedal turned on, but you could play the same song without the fuzz pedal and it would sound the same. Because it is folk music. It is indestructible music and for that I thank Eric.

You would think that because Eric is a successful drummer (in Dr. Dog), he would have a drum fetish. You’d think the drums would be mixed loud, and feature flashy fill after flashy fill. You’d think the snare would be tuned up high with brand new heads just put on that day. And yet these drums sound like Anybody playing Anybody’s drums. You’d think the Eric Slick Solo Epic would be a noise-rock vanity project, but it’s an anti-vanity project. It is music of discipline and ego-demotion. Whatever amount of discipline it takes for a band to record a record, multiply that by the number of people in the band you have replaced by your overdubbing self. So most of these songs take 400% or 500% more discipline.

OK, there is one dissonant chord with some echo on it. But that is still not noise! That’s just something the Beach Boys did on their records, and everyone knows those are 50% bitter. And the beat to “Be My Baby” is the drumbeat!

It’s strange how in photography or painting they teach you to make it asymmetrical so it has more Style, but you look at Stanley Kubrick movies and it’s all symmetrical! Well, Eric writes asymmetrical, but when it gets really symmetrical suddenly, with everything on the beat, it gives the same uneasy feeling like The Shining. In a way this record borders on being Style-free. It’s bigger than style. Less form, more content. Because you can’t miss with good material.

Yeah, there might be a bit of noise on this record, but in 2017 putting noise on your record is really a quotation of noise to be honest. IE, that’s not your speakers bleeding, that’s a circle of people singing “Kumbaya” with a painting on the wall behind them of speakers bleeding. You have to remember, when you step on a fuzz pedal it doesn’t just make it sound ugly and raunchy, it also makes the sound last longer. When you hold the piano pedal down and put reverb on it, it extends the lifespan of the note. I think Brian Wilson describing SMiLE also described Palisades. I do not remember the exact quote but I think it is “teenage symphonies to God.” Sounding mean or satisfying your noise-rock fetish are good reasons to make a wall of sound, but hardly the only reasons. The sounds last a little longer, like switching to cinnamon gum instead of mint. A wall of sound also helps you non-understand and non-care which instruments are playing what.
You could perform this album on a muted xylophone in a walk-in closet filled with winter clothes and it would be the same album, because the songs are fun and sad to sing. They are lab-tested and focus-grouped on the human voice. If you and your friends performed Palisades as a sing-along in a bingo parlor in which Eric Slick stood in front of you swinging a baton, and had you and your friends sing everything in unison, it would sound exactly the same as this record already sounds. Noise is decoration or anti-music, but this record is nothing but the music. It is notes and rhythms. It is what Joe Friday asked for on Dragnet when he said, “All we want are the facts, ma’am.”

This is music for usage. It’s not verse-chorus, but rather Mantra1-Mantra2. There are no flashing lights or video screens. The human race can always use more chanting. Sure I listen to Eric Slick on the Internet, but it’s not a distraction; it clears away distractions! Stream it or space-bar it or better yet cover it and I predict it will successfully clear your mind.

Does Auto-Tune make you more noise-rock or less noise-rock? Because Eric doesn’t need Auto-Tune because the melody is pretty slow and easy to sing, certainly easier than “O Say Can You See,” which people sing all the time. I recommend this record very highly: 10 out of 10 stars.


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