Friday, April 25, 2008

A Noise, A Scandal

A brief mea culpa: I have not written a word here in over two months. Despite my readership of one, that contradicts my previous commitment of aggressively covering the DFW music scene. It also undermines the fact that I have absorbed ample amounts of great music in that span, and most of it locally. All that is to explain why today I will be elaborating on a show I saw almost a month ago and why, as I try to ramp up to full speed over the next couple of weeks, this blog will sound more like reminiscing and less like relevant coverage. But now...

Shiny Around the Edges

My mom and I have an on-going argument about accessibility that we revisit at least twice a year. My mom has great taste in music. She grew up musically sheltered and so was only allowed to listen to rigid white-bred gospel or whatever mono-chromatically robed family band happened to visit their church. She was well into adulthood before she discovered the music that she had every right to in her teenage years. And when I was young, she weened me on this music. She was born in '49, so this meant Peter & Gordon, Herb Alpert, Frankie Avalon, Buddy Holly, The Righteous Brothers. It was all "safe" stuff, but it was all good. That said, my mom also enjoys Alan Jackson and really loves her some Toby Keith.

The argument we have starts with my diatribe on pop country, but ends up being a philosophical consideration on the merits of forcing yourself beyond your musical comfort zone. What's so wrong with "I wanna talk about meee-iii-eee" if that's what you enjoy? What is the use of making yourself move beyond what you already know you like? My mom is firmly in the "if it ain't broke" camp. And while that loyalty leads to an appreciation of the timeless - Dion, Marty Robbins, Bobby Darin - I think it also leads to atrophying the ability to discover.

This really is coming back around to Shiny Around the Edges, pictured above. My mom would hate Shiny Around the Edges. That's not a revelation. Most people's mothers would hate Shiny Around the Edges. But my mom would hate them for the same reason I saw a few people screw up their faces at the show they played almost two months ago at Rubber Gloves in Denton.

Shiny Around the Edges aims to subvert everything you know and enjoy about music. Sometims their sound is like an ominous whisper from that Poltergeist kid. The rest of the time, their sound is like a pillow-case full of bricks to the jaw. And not in any kind of cliche', metal-head way. They don't use bombast to shock as much as they use minimalism. They use single floor toms instead of a whole drum set. They shout at one pitch instead of sing a melody. They don't play their guitars at AC/DC volume levels, but with the bare minimum of distortion, abusing them with what looked like screwdrivers. I was standing. All the simplicity makes for an impression that's very personal. It's like being in the same room with the apocalypse.

The people who came to the show with me were not enjoying the ruckus that is Shiny Around the Edges. And I really don't judge or blame them. There's no really good or obvious reason to like Shiny Around the Edges. I'll admit to being similarly perplexed when I saw them weeks before at Sons of Hermann. But this time I felt like I was starting to understand, in my own way at least.

Shiny Around the Edges' music is scandalous. It's affront to things we think we know. And I think it's important to have things upset our sensibilities. It reminded me a little of Jesus, in the way that it illustrates scandal. We want a messiah, but not one who born in straw... Ok, but don't let him be from somewhere as lame as Nazareth... Fine, but let him be a priest or politician, not a carpenter... So be it, but let him lead a glorious revolution, not sit around and talk with prostitutes or lepers... A cross, a violent and bloody, ignominious death? Are you fucking kidding me? This? No matter what you perceive as "this," Shiny Around the Edges seem to shout from stage, "Yes, this."

Scandals are good for your health, for exercising those intellectual muscles you didn't think you had. Shiny Around the Edges gives you a puzzle and dares you to solve it. There will always be a place for head-nodding music, but listeners, and especially DFW listeners, would do well to also make a place for Shiny Around the Edges, a band that's shocking, disturbing, and very likely has something important to say.