LISTEN 1: This is crap. What the hell kind of band name is The Planet The, anyway? This is like Talking Heads losing David Byrne, hiring someone whinier and more obnoxious (and not even obnoxious in the wonderful way that Byrne was and is) and continuing on as a poor approximation of what they once were. Who needs beats? Who needs melodies? Let’s just beat on crap and yell for a while. It’ll make a bitchin’ CD, dude!
LISTEN 2: Hmmm… the album’s called You Absorb My Vision... what could that mean? Something about walking in someone else’s shoes, seeing through their eyes? Or is it nonsense like the rest of this hooey? I have a headache. I’m turning this off.
LISTEN 3: I’m singing along to “Look of a Woman”. When did that happen? The tune’s actually pretty infectious, even if it’s still kind of annoying. “You could not bother to understand the look of a woman!” Woo! It’s sort of exhilarating, really. Excuse me while I pogo to this.
The rest of the album is still leaving me cold, but at least I found something worth hearing. I mean, really, would the world end if lead singer Charles Matze took all of those nasty effects off of his voice so we could hear what it actually sounds like? Could they turn down the drums a little bit so I can hear some of the synths? Do they even care that their little album is causing me physical pain?
LISTEN 4: All right, maybe I’m coming around. There’s sort of an odd aesthetic that’s coming through here, something like Devo fronted by a castrated Jim Morrison. Or something. It’s intriguing, if nothing else.
It’s as if The Planet The is out to frustrate its listeners. The tracks all hover around two minutes long, the whole album is just over 20 minutes, and it’s being marketed as a full-length. Not only that, but the first song and last song don’t seem to exist—while the cover lists 12 songs, only 10 actually grace the CD. The missing songs are “Hadley Jr. High” and, weirdest of all, the title track. Is it a printing error? Is it intentional? Who knows? Somehow, the lack of songs seems to fit right in with the artistic sense of the rest of the album. The Planet The is, quite simply, taking the piss out of its listeners, and probably laughing all the way back to the studio.
LISTEN 5: At this point, I’m ready to concede a Ween-ish charm to the band, aided in no small part by a lyric that may or may not be saying “I’ve got to shit this brick” over and over again. That’s in a tune called “Trip Under Control”, one of the (dare I say) catchier numbers, thanks to some nice ‘80s synth work that’s regrettably pushed to the back of the mix.
Did I mention I’m playing this at work? Funny looks all around. Good times.
A sense of deliberation is surfacing as counterpoint to the weirdness—a Zappa-esque affinity for controlled chaos is on display in “Tennis”, where the blasts of simultaneous, atonal guitar, bass drum, and bass could well be a simulation of a volley in the title sport, a volley that goes on longer and longer as the song progresses. There’s no doubt the song was written this way, but the question of “why?” remains.
LISTEN 6: Wiping the drool off my keyboard as I zone out to “Envision My Zorb”. Putting it on repeat and pretending I’m on Mars.
LISTEN 7: I’ve built up the nerve to play You Absorb My Vision for a respected colleague, prepared for the inevitable questioning of my musical taste (not to mention my sanity) that would result from respect for an album like this. I explain the band’s likely influences, I point out the pop-like structure that forms the backbone of a large number of the tracks, I emphasize the skill it must take to keep the band from completely falling apart in a song like “Tennis”.
My colleague looks at me for a second, before replying, “Do they tune their instruments? This is awful.”
I’ve come to the realization that my colleague is correct. It is awful. But it’s the best kind of awful, the kind of awful that has questions and points of discussion attached to it.
The kind of awful that you remember.