The Man Who Couldn’t Stop
Wisconsin’s bullet-tongued Matt Fanale upped the ante last year with his first release on a “major” independent label. The Golden Vagina Of Fame And Profit walked a fine line: delivering the sardonic wit and gross-out humour that had made him a long-running underground sensation in the industrial world while flexing some new-found musical confidence and polish. As he put it when we talked to him, he wanted to release the “biggest, shiniest Caustic album possible without compromising any of [his] ideas, and then try and get it out to as many people as possible”. What has come after that feels like a victory lap that’s spiraling outward beyond the boundaries of the stadium which once contained it; The Man Who Couldn’t Stop is still orbiting the same principles which made Golden Vagina work, but makes mad dashes into new territory which Fanale treats like a parkour tracer, grabbing onto and pushing off of whatever comes across his path as long as it keeps him moving.
Fanale’s sixth-ish LP as Caustic (parsing the taxonomy of this project’s discography is far beyond my ken) is as long as Golden Vagina and the raw, confessional previous release …And You Will Know Me By The Trail Of Vomit combined, and I’ll admit that I wondered whether he could return to a longer form approach while maintaining the quality offered by those two records’ tight focus. While it’s certainly chaotic, this outing never drags or wears out its welcome, in part due to at least one key musical strength and one structural ploy. As to the former, our resident curmudgeon Matt Pathogen was complaining a while back that the more funk-influenced rhythms in industrial had all but disappeared. While it wouldn’t pass for Maggot Brain over even the most blown-out of club PAs, the core groove (perhaps a more subtle beast than cleanly quantized beats often suggest) is almost universally the first impression made by The Man Who Couldn’t Stop‘s tracks, and they hang better in the listener’s head for that. You’ve got classic industrial metal shifted down into sludge on the Stormfront-baiting “Laugh Like Mutants”, and simple but effectively brapped drumbeats on “Man-E-Faces” (He-Man nods always get cheap heat from me) and “Stains On The Coattails” which bring Pigface to mind. Hell, there’s even a ska beat tossed in on “We Never Learn”, and Fanale’s naked rasp on that track certainly didn’t help dissuade me from thinking of Operation Ivy.
Underneath the grooves is the odd thread of similar tracks being paired up back-to-back on the track listing, a trick which almost gave me the feeling of listening to a series of double-A side 7″s; not a bad way of keeping things rolling over the course of 76 minutes. It’s first noticeable with early chill cuts “Bleed You Out” and “Ghost Like Swayze” (I’m almost afraid to comment on that track’s mood’s similarity to The Weeknd, lest the very fabric of the universe may be rent from its frame if I compare Fanale to Abel Tesfaye), but crops up again and again. There are the squealing pitches and wind-chopping beats of club tracks “Bury You Alive” and “Bigger Better Faster NOW!!!”, the speedy and squelchy dark electro of “Demon Seed Semen Deed” and “Collide With Me”, and a pair of looser punky numbers with bit of gothish guitar: “The Man Who Couldn’t Stop” and “Suck Me Dry”. It all makes for a nice showcase of the range of sound Caustic has come to deftly encompass over the years, but by placing the tracks next to each other their differences are as apparent as their similarities, and there’s no vague feeling that something you heard half an hour back is now being rehashed.
Gabe from COMA recently commented that The Man Who Couldn’t Stop reminded him of Foetus. While I’m not sure that Caustic’s freestyle mania is quite at the polymath/virtuoso level at which Thirlwell tools about, I definitely see what he’s getting at. There’s a similar “taking all comers” approach to any sound or style that’s stumbled across, and it all gets powered by a vitriolic engine that’s bitterly humourous but doesn’t make “funny” out to be a finish line. The Man Who Couldn’t Stop is a big, hot, sloppy mess, which is what we all want from a Caustic record, but it’s got a lot more to offer: the honing of craft Fanale undertook on The Golden Vagina is transposed to a much larger and more chaotic canvas, and the movement and vigor of its material shines through all the better. And hey, it’s got a Sisyphean dung beetle on the cover, too.