(DGR reviews the new EP by Worse.)
“No, there is nothing”
There’s something under the currents of the latest release by San Francisco-based grind band Worse, To Be Alive Is To Be Alone.
Grind, I’ve hypothesized before, is one of the ultimate plug-and-play genres — loaning itself incredibly well to expulsions of anger and violence. We like to parrot the phrase that a huge chunk of heavy metal’s appeal comes from the cathartic release aspect, and the grind and powerviolence genres remain high on the menu for doing that.
Worse, whose self-titled release I pounded out a review for last year, was a vortex of sound. In that review I compared their release to the sound of someone kicking their instruments down a flight of stairs. To Be Alive Is To Be Alone, is a wholly different beast, one that is more composed, and this time around, more prone to self-harm, and more inwardly explosive than before.
To say this disc bears the marks of an album like Gridlink’s Longhena would be an understatement. To Be Alive Is To Be Alone seems to be coming from that same spot in the human experience, one that is full of grief and regret. Worse have not made an album that is by any sense depressive, but there’s definitely a thick air to it. It has a pervading oppression to it this time around, in comparison to the “fuck it all” sort of chaos that made up their S/T release.
You have to keep in mind, though, that Worse keep their music as short as possible; you’re talking about a group whose collective works so far may span a half hour, maybe. To be Alive Is To Be Alone blurs by up until the last track, and it is by far that angriest album to feature a sample of Gene Wilder in Charlie And The Chocolate Factory in a long time.
Worse keep their music in fiery blasts, and with their song titles still carry the hallmarks of a band who are goofing around just a bit. But this time all of those marks are on the surface level. Whether it be serendipitous or not, To Be Alive Is To Be Alone feels like there are deeper things happening within their music.
The song “Alive/Alone” is the cornerstone upon which this EP is built, and this release feels like it is all building up to that song. “Alive/Alone” is the closer of the EP and also its longest-running song at a whopping three minutes and fifty seconds — so be sure to pack a lunch because you’ll obviously be stuck for a while with this one playing. It’s also the slowest-moving song. It sounds like the group got into a fight with a depressive black metal project, as the whole track is just a feedback- and bass-vibration-filled, crashing-guitar-chords and anguished-yelling mess of a song. It’s the release after the whole disc shotguns you forward at light speed.
The rest of the songs on To be Alive Is To Be Alone bounce around in the twenty-second to minute-and-a-half range, and as on their S/T release, they fly by with nary a breath in between. The music is like a surgical strike. This time Worse try to provide some context by jamming some movie quotes into the songs, including the one I cited above at the opening of “Everything Is Terrible, Everything Is Great”. If ever there were an opening to just be followed by a giant ‘YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH” style shriek, its probably that one. The Gene Wilder quote comes at the opening of track two, “Gout”, and it’s the infamous “YOU LOSE, SO YOU GET NOTHING” yell, and is then lit on fire with some det cord leading to the explosion of noise in the next couple of songs.
When I reviewed Worse’s S/T release, back in ye olden days of 2014, when Jesus was throwing the moneylenders from the temple if we’re viewing time at the speed at which the internet moves, I found that the release was an enjoyable, angry blast of righteousness. Whether there was a deeper meaning to the band’s music, I couldn’t tell at the time. It felt like it was written as part musical temper-tantrum, part human experiment to see just how much of a froth the group could whip a crowd into.
It was the sort of music that is meant for basements and corners of bars, where the dinge literally drips off the walls and you’re afraid to use the bathroom no matter how badly you have to go because you feel that by even witnessing it you’ll probably contact some sort of super-virus. Worse was ugly music for an ugly scene populated by ugly lives and ugly personalities.
To Be Alive Is To Be Alone feels like the band have found a purpose for their music now, or at the very least have captured a sharp window in time in their existence; it is something that finally bubbles up in its (almost) title track that I mentioned above. The occasional film quote — whilst a trick that has been used before — helps provide some context to the ugly-ass growling and guitar butchery to which you bear witness on this disc. The drumming seems to loop around in an attempt to destroy itself, and by the end of this release seems to have accomplished its goal.
It’s a quick EP that I feel has to be taken in one go; random spurts from MP3 shuffle can’t really do it justice. It’s just one block of time in which you see white and by the end of it you’re in a daze. Your mind starts catching up to you in the last song, but some of those parts feel like they’re written to destroy venues, and it’s real hard to control yourself in cases where you might be, say, alone at work. To Be Alive Is To Be Alone sound alike it was meant to be one long song, especially given the band’s propensity to open and close with feedback, like they feel songs should begin and end by yanking your cords out of your amps and then plugging them back in, with the long drawn-out ending acting as punctuation.
While I’m probably reading way too much into it, I feel like Worse have pulled off a hell of a release this go around — one that matches heavy metal’s thirst for catharsis and then overfeeding it — while also doing everything it can to loop back around and destroy itself.