If anyone stumbles across San Diego-based quartet GoGoGo Airheart, see if you can wheedle upcoming lotto numbers out of them, because these guys can see into the future. What else can explain the air of eerie prescience surrounding their recently re-issued (and for the first time on CD), Love My Life, Hate My Friends? Recorded back in the halcyon days of 1998, and originally released on San Diego’s Vinyl Communications label, Love My Life manages to incorporate elements of electroclash, garage, and NYC art skronk while Fischerspooner was a gaudy twinkle in Warren and Casey’s mascara-lined eyes and Karen O was just another coed at Oberlin. Had Love My Life been given a full-out, proper release back in 1998, I’d either be here now making a tree-falls-in-the-woods joke or we’d be heralding GGGAH as the granddaddies of the current NYC art scene. (Which, in and of itself, ain’t bad for some dudes from San Diego.) As it is, in the much-less-halcyon days of mid-2003, they’re just another arty, post-punk band trying to be heard in the din.
Of course, they have to overcome their own noise. Album opener “No Language (Before Its Time)” may make for an interesting linguistic/anthropological statement, but GGGAH—bassist A. Vyas, guitarist/vocalist Michael Vermilion, drummer J Hough, and guitarist/keyboardist Benjamin White—envision the theory as what sounds to be five different songs at once. That may be part of the song title’s joke, but only Vermilion’s yowling and White’s angular, lo-fi guitar jabs hint at extrication from the primordial ooze. Fortunately, most of Love My Life isn’t as abrasive as its opener; five years ago, the band must’ve realized that most people in the future would only be able to stand small doses of art punk. Ha.
It’s not until the middle of the album where the band finds their proto-electro groove. If you’re not suspecting it, and songs like “No Language” and the Camper Van Beethoven-esque (!) violin and saw of “First among Equals” give no indication of the band’s keyboard-driven aspirations, the sonic change is a near U-turn of Love My Life‘s musical path. It takes a moment to get acclimated to the jagged keyboard beat of “How I Feel Tried”, coupled with Vermilion’s less-anguished vocals and an overall comparative sterility. Yes, the song is guilty of running long (seven minutes), but a) it’s more focused than the noise that has preceded it; and b) it’s clear the band is having fun just messing around in the studio. Meanwhile, “When Introductions Begin” is the funkier cousin to “How I Feel Tried” and “Reaction Atria, Pts 1 & 2” finds surf and disco undertones finding their way into the electro scene. It’s a challenging listen at times, to be sure, but the strength of the album’s middle third is not to be denied.
It’s a matter of one’s cynicism, then, whether Love My Life ends as a let down or merely a cool down. “The Correct Handling of Contradiction” attempts to fuse the band’s angular art rock with the electro, but I’m afraid the song is mistitled; the noise wins out. “Rebirth” doesn’t fit the album by dint of being Love My Life‘s cleanest-sounding track. The oldest song that appears here, GGGAH hadn’t quite solidified their musical recipe; it’s a decent baby photo of the band, though. And again, depending on one’s point of view and how much enjoyment the preceding songs provided, album closer “Ever Since I Was Young” is either the culmination of the band’s vision, or it’s ambiguous wanking. Between the slow-building keyboard, the ambient noise of a restaurant (low murmurs, knives scraping china) and the overall loose song structure, it’s both undeniably a GoGoGo Airheart tune and unlike anything else on the record.
While hardly inventors of electroclash or predictors of the NYC art punk rebirth, Love My Life, Hate My Friends nevertheless proves that something was blowin’ in the wind as early as 1998. But prescience does not an album make; it’s the songs, and Love My Life‘s songs still sound fresh five years later; they’ll last until at least electroclash’s expiration date.