Before I begin, let’s just get this out of the way: Holy Fuck is an awful band name. Like Free Beer, Barenaked Ladies and the Be Sharps, Holy Fuck is one of those names that’s kind of funny once and ridiculously stupid every time afterward. To ward off controversy in the CD shelves, the band has put a sticker over their name on the CD’s plastic wrap that reads Holy Fcuk, perhaps unknowingly opening themselves up to a letter from French Connection. But the difficulties of having such an awkward handle are quickly forgotten once the disc starts.
The Toronto-based quintet started the band as a bit of a lark, attempting to create the sounds of electronic music without using any of the current technology. Armed with busted toys, guitar pedals, hotwired gear, mixers, and supported with bass and drums, Holy Fuck were soon tearing up Canadian dance floors. The biggest and most impressive feat about the band’s show was that it was completely improvised. Unlike laptop knob twiddlers who spent their “sets” with their faces lit up by the glow of their computer screens, Holy Fuck sweat, scream, jump and crank up the volume injecting fresh, deviant blood in a genre that can be isolating in its navel gazing.
Given the spontaneous nature of the group’s music, two of the tracks were completely improvised live the studio in late 2004, while the rest were captured to tape in one day in January 2005. Dave Newfeld, the celebrated producer of Broken Social Scene, recorded the bulk of these songs and perhaps celebrating in Holy Fuck’s primal and immediate nature he keeps the sound raw and dirty. Holy Fuck’s template is rather simple: usually a fairly catchy beat is selected and then built upon as the group creates around, adding texture, pushing volume to the red, letting up and tearing it apart.
The disc kicks-off with the improvised “Tone Bank Jungle”. The first thing listeners will notice, and that will continue to stand out for the rest of the disc, is the astonishing work of the drummer. Loel Campbell anchors the first track with some stellar percussion, while the song’s kinetic propulsive beat cuts through an impressive fog of texture, atmosphere, and outright speaker-smoking volume. None other than Blue Rodeo’s Glenn Milchern stuns on “Casio Bossa Nova” with some outright inspired skin pounding. Built around the tinny pre-programmed beat on the cheapest of Casio keyboards, group members Brian Borcherdt , Kevin Lynn, and Graham Walsh delightfully twist the song, mutating the rhythm against the will with some wildly inventive results. Despite the band’s amazing display on their debut effort, this disc is stilted by some less effective tracks. “Bontempi Latin” never quit reaches the fever pitch it wants to, while the closing two part track “K.Rhythm” would be more effective it didn’t run nearly 15 minutes long.
As anyone who has seen them recently can attest, Holy Fuck has grown by leaps and bounds since this CD was recorded. And for all the energy on the disc, Holy Fuck are still best experienced live, where once can witness the band’s literal head-banging experience. But if you can’t get to a show, the disc is a solid substitute. For anyone bored with the same old stuff that spins in every club across the nation, Holy Fuck are the antidote. They bring fun, unbridled enthusiasm, innovation, urgency, and jaw-dropping energy back to the dance floor. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself exclaiming “Holy fuck!” as this band blasts through your stereo. Hmm, I guess their band name is appropriate, after all.
// Notes from the Road
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