“Now you are a man. Bury your first toy and your mother’s picture.” With these words Moscow’s sonic anarchists, Won James Won begin their assault on our conventions and convictions. Over the next seventy minutes they stray very far outside of the typical clichés and postures of rock music without ever becoming oblivious to the power underlying the idea of rock.
Theorist Attack’s relationship to rock and roll, like Frank Gehry’s relationship to architecture, is oblique but very critical. The language of the medium is used, but only as a starting point from which to deconstruct it. Like the Museo Guggenheim Bilbao, Theorist Attack‘s poly-dimensional cubism is somehow more alive, more real in relation to it’s surroundings; an ancient, monolithic alien artifact amidst a dull, prosaic two-dimensional backdrop. Once glimpsed, both are impossible to ignore.
The shock of the new cannot compensate for half-baked ideas, sloppiness, self-indulgence or unchecked ambition for very long. As soon as the mind adapts to the novelty, the game is up. What usually remains in this equation is an “interesting” album that no one wants to listen to. Theorist Attack does not fall prey to this trap. Won James Won throw an all-encompassing net over a human culture in decline, assembling what they find into barely recognizable structures using found sounds, esoteric vocal samples, industrial noise, elements of pop music, rap, punk, electronica, jazz and a narrator/vocalist channeling it all into something we can put into context. Though layer upon layer of aural information reveals itself, sometimes overwhelming the senses, the chaos is repeatedly harnessed back into a semblance of order, the richness of the overall sound congealing into hooks that sink deep into the subconscious.
Theorist Attack is what I would consider the second zeitgeist-defining, ground-shaking piece of recorded art for the new millennium. Like Radiohead’s masterpiece Kid A, it chronicles social decay and the urgency of existential dilemma using a vast array of unorthodox sounds and styles as well as astonishing juxtapositions of beauty and ugliness, simplicity and complexity. Within these two small circular codices lies a deep sense of our fields of experience expanding, barriers being demolished, a new strange vernacular being wrested into existence…..but whereas Kid A detaches itself from reality with profound resignation, Theorist Attack positively revels in the messiness of it’s milieu. Won James Won seem to be conscious of the myriad possibilities inherent in the breakdown of society and they make creative use of the open-ended nature of instability. In other words, this album is an absolute riot, in both senses of the term.
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