D. Trevor Kampmann, vocals, guitars, synthesizers, drums, et cetera
PRODUCED AND RECORDED BY
D. Trevor Kampmann,
at pulCec, Brooklyn, New York, USA
and pulCec, New York, New York, USA
COVER DESIGN AND PHOTOGRAPHY
D. Trevor Kampmann
TYPE DESIGN AND PRODUCTION
Mark Robinson, Teen-Beat Graphica
All songs written by D. Trevor Kampmann, ©2007 pulCec (ASCAP).
"Heavy-handed politics is a staple of indie culture. Or rather, lack of nuance isn't merely relegated to the edges of culture. It exists everywhere. In television, films, songs - most mass media - and works through a feedback mechanism: executives think the American public is near-retarded, so it caters to the perceived low-brow demographic, and (for lots of reasons, but I'll highlight this one) since what people mostly get from mass media is low-brow fare, it creates people that want this stuff and creates expectations for a lack of subtlety in the media people consume. So, you have a system that works to produce more and more overt works of art. Characters that spell out their motivations in long blocks of exposition. Longing looks that pass for subtlety. Etc.
So, there's no reason to expect indie culture (just take that as meaning non-mainstream culture, i.e., it's just a codeword to stand in for all the assembled sub-cultures on the fringes. So don't give me grief; I'm not making a claim that there's some kind of monolithic counterculture that stands opposed to the dominant order) is going to deal with certain topics any differently. The aesthetic may be different, the bias may be farther left - or at least have the faćade of being farther left - but really, indie culture, i.e. this amalgam of sub-cultures – Amalgamated Counterculture – is no different, in principle, than the heavyhandedness of dominant culture. It has the same racist, classist, sexist and heterosexist bend, perhaps in different concentrations depending on the group, but then again, those same concentrations will vary from group to group of dominant norm subscribers. So even though I want there to be, or even though we think there's going to be a more nuanced or more interesting handling of certain topics (love, politics, art) within indie media, it's often just as blunt. I have a soft spot in my heart for Minor Threat, but something like that. Or Sleater-Kinney's last album.
Now, sometimes what you want is blatant pandering to the left. Trying to actually be an ethical person and perform ethical acts in a society that wants to walk a moral gray line that often dips into the outright depraved is difficult, and it can be frustrating, and sometimes you want the aural expression of that frustration to be manifest. It's comforting in that way, but most of the time, when you want interesting lyrics - and I guess I'm just weird that way... I want lyrics that do something novel or that invoke a novel feeling and don't just give me lovey-dovey bullshit or naēve lefty handwaving – this comforting bluntness won't do. Sophisticated songwriting is rare. I give a generous estimate of five percent to the amount of art that is doing something new - and of course you don't have to do something completely new to be interesting, and lots of people are often reviled for doing just that, but still, there's a high correlation between novelty and compellability. (And the other caveat is that just doing something new doesn't mean you're doing something interesting.)
Alright, so now that I've said being blunt is the rhetorical equivalent of being a piece of shit, let me try and make a case for when it can be used in an interesting way. My first introduction to hollAnd was roughly ten years ago. I was a freshman at Pitt and a trainee at WPTS, the student-run free form radio station. And I got to play lots of new music. And write reviews of new CDs. And so did my friend Kyle who had the luck of picking Your Orgasm to review. Trevor Kampmann's ability to make analog synths sound innovative immediately held our gaze (at the time, for novices such as us, analog synths had the legacy of 70s prog excess and 80s fey synthrock weighing them down. Thanks in part to bands like hollAnd and The Rentals, the sound was rehabilitated). And since then, I've excitedly followed Kampmann's music making career, excited for every new single or collaboration with Mark Borthwick. What I'm trying to say is, there's been a lot of excitement.
So, when I accidentally ran into the new hollAnd while traversing a P2P program, I got excited again. (Not physically, mind you. I can't. Some Freudian bullshit or something like that. But mentally. Or aesthetically.) And my first listens made me laugh. And it's still funny after twenty or more. The new hollAnd album uses bluntness to an incredible effect. Ostensibly an anti-war album, Kampmann is doing something much more sly with The Paris Hilton Mujahideen. It's left-leaning, sure, but ironically so.
After Talledega Nights (which had its moments, but overall suffered from that fact that I don't care about NASCAR in the slightest), my friend remarked that Ferrell and company were able to have their cake and eat it too, in that they made a movie that mocked NASCAR but at the same time appealed to a NASCAR-loving-audience and celebrated it to an extent. I think the same thing is going on with this album. Kampmann is taking the piss out of the left, but at the same time he genuinely means the things he's saying on the record. Blunt anti-war statements with nary a disguise in sight. So, it's ironic and at the same time sincere, which is a difficult feat to pull off. Usually when people attempt to make art that balances on such widely-separated chairs, the effort falls through to the floor. But here, the juxtaposition of political critique and pop music forces the binary to feel natural. It's an odd trick about pop music that's used quite well on the album. Usually it's sappy lyrics about longing or some other such claptrap that the pop smuggles into the blithe emotion we're forced to feel by the chord progressions. Here, though, there seems to be something much more subversive - getting people to actively consider dissent (and alright, opposition to the war at this point isn't so subversive, but the point still stands) - that makes me think Kampmann is doing something above and beyond the blunt prattling of the indie resistance set. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe this is just like bringing a puppet to a peace march. Could that take away from the fact that it's a great pop album?"
- Dave Bernabo, Fake Jazz
[RATING: 10 out of 12]
January 16, 2007
25 minutes, 46 seconds
full-colour cardstock jacket.
nothing printed on label.
bottom side coated in black, top side blank CD silver.
Original printing of 1,000 jackets not used because the back and front covers were reversed.
Dorado Press, California.
Bellwether Mfg., Bloomington, Indiana.