Sometimes I get sick of rock bands that methodically plan everything out. Every little snippet of sound, every bass drum whack, every guitar note is carefully mapped and reproduced on tape in a quest for the perfect song, and in the process, a lot of spontaneity and energy is lost. I mean, I’m not the world’s biggest fan of guitar solos or improvisational noise (to hit both ends of the spectrum), but even I have to admit that some incredible things have come out of just playing off-the-cuff and letting the chips fall where they may (see Jimi Hendrix and Sonic Youth for two examples). After listening to Will Self-Destruct a couple of times, I get the feeling The And/Ors (veterans of Thee Psychic Hearts, Jejune, Interstate Ten, and Crash Worship, of all things) understand this, and that understanding elevates them above the realm of your average pop-rock band. Hell, any idiot can play a three-chord pop song and make it sound good; only folks with real talent can screw with the structure and formula and still make it sound good.
And this does sound good, by the way, even though I won’t claim it’s breaking new territory — a large chunk of the album, especially the rocking “The Black Diamond Prince” and the overdistorted, almost funky “Candy Takes the Cake”, are dead ringers for Guided by Voices’ Under the Bushes, Under the Stars, all the way down to the pseudo-British accent, and it’d almost be annoying if it weren’t so fucking catchy and brilliant. They may be aping GbV somewhat, but at least they’re doing it well. In fact, the best thing about the And/Ors’ sound is that it marries Robert Pollard-esque melodic and lyrical sensibilities with the noise and intensity of fuzzed-out rock (this is where that “off-the-cuff” thing comes in). “TimeSpaceChanger” offers up some proof, melding the two sides of the equation into a gloriously sloppy, noise-heavy piece of spacerock, where swirling guitars drag the listener down into a mess of feedback, phased-out bass and melancholy vocals. Similarly, “Neo-Disney Hype-Trip” blends Robyn Hitchcock vocals with sharply-angled Chavez-style rock to make something pretty far removed from either influence.
To hit a few other high points — “At the Saturn Bar” is almost space-country, reminiscent of all those alt-country bands like Son Volt but still distorted and outer space-y, while “As We Play the Tape Tricks Us” is a tiny little slice of speeding, super-poppy rock complete with handclaps and “Masterblaster” is all druggy, sludgy fuzz-pop, a little like Mystery Machine. “Screams Nicole” starts out like a good pop track, but gets progressively more noisy and messy, the crescendo of which is finally hit in the instrumental second-to-last track, “The Slider”, where My Bloody Valentine guitar wash trades off with a jangly guitar and programmed beats. In fact, as I look down the track listing here, the one song I’d probably skip the next time ’round would have to be “Loft Life”, a slow ode to living downtown that might not be bad elsewhere but just serves to interrupt the flow here. The especially unfortunate part, though, is that “Life” is one of the longest tracks on Will Self-Destruct, clocking in at three-minutes-something…which brings me, actually, to my only major complaint with the album: kids, why couldn’t you have let songs like “As We Play the Tape Tricks Us”, “Flexiclocks” or “The Slider” be a just a little longer, dammit?