Music

Supreme Dicks: Breathing and Not Breathing

As much as we want to think every underground band in the 1990s was producing quality just because no one was listening, the truth is sometimes underground bands are unknown for a reason. This is the kind of alternative music indie snobs drool over.


Supreme Dicks

Breathing and Not Breathing

US Release: 2011-10-18
UK Release: 2011-10-18
Label: Jagjaguwar
Amazon
iTunes

Supreme Dicks’ Breathing and Not Breathing is one of those oddities which can be hard to pin down on paper. These are the complete, collected works of a relatively unknown band from Massachusetts that broke up, incidentally, more than a decade ago. For that reason, it is difficult to imagine who the audience is for this four-album set; of all the bands with material out there demanding to be brought back into print, one must wonder why Jagjaguwar chose to highlight the work of a band whose music could be charitably described as unlistenable.

Being that I am in a distinctively less charitable frame of mind after having repeatedly subjected myself to this rambling mess of mediocre experimentation and sonic digressions, I must question whether the band truly was "experimenting" in the first place. Though there are moments when, from an instrumental standpoint, the band members seem capable of stringing together notes into melodies, the most frequent result of their sonic collaborations is for the band to chaotically play pretty much whatever the fuck they want while songwriters Daniel Oxenberg and Jon Shere lyrically masturbate.

The resultant mess is hard to make much sense of. Songs like “All That Returns” seem to revel in their obtuseness, sounding like a Flight of the Conchords joke in which the joke of this music is on us for thinking there’s something deeper there. The guitars in the background repeat a trio of chords repetitively as one vocalist dryly intones a spate of vaguely religious babble. It may be true, as Prelix’s Matt Fiander writes, that “in all this weirdness there’s not a shred of pretension to it,” but a lack of pretension doesn’t make up for the fact that much of this sounds like weirdness for the sake of it.

As much as we want to think every underground band in the 1990s was producing quality just because no one was listening, it should be acknowledged that sometimes underground bands are unknown for a reason. This is the kind of alternative music indie snobs drool over, telling the uninitiated that we’re just unwilling to get our hands dirty digging through the dirt to find the incredible nuggets of creative awesomeness which are obviously there.

But after digging through the mess which is Breathing and Not Breathing, it’s hard to fathom there’s a significant audience out there featuring listeners who both haven’t already heard the Supreme Dicks and who are clamoring for the music they offer here. If a band existed on the fringes of a scene and then fell into obscurity, I see no inherent reason we should think their limited output is somehow suddenly relevant to rock music today. The idea that these guys from Amherst who made chaotic, inscrutable music are somehow ready for the rock canon seems, in itself, to be the height of pretension.

Those who loved them two decades ago will want this four-disc set for the previously unavailable tracks now revealed via the Workingman’s Dick archival recordings and the EP This Is Not A Dick, which features rare and previously unreleased material. But the rest of us are more likely to find the flood of material herein to be an experience best avoided, despite what a few die-hards might tell you to the contrary.

2

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.

Books

Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.

Music

PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.

Film

'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.

Music

Bright Eyes' 'Down in the Weeds' Is a Return to Form and a Statement of Hope

Bright Eyes may not technically be emo, but they are transcendently expressive, beatifically melancholic. Down in the Weeds is just the statement of grounding that we need as a respite from the churning chaos around us.

Film

Audrey Hepburn + Rome = Grace, Class, and Beauty

William Wyler's Roman Holiday crosses the postcard genre with a hardy trope: Old World royalty seeks escape from stuffy, ritual-bound, lives for a fling with the modern world, especially with Americans.

Music

Colombia's Simón Mejía Plugs Into the Natural World on 'Mirla'

Bomba Estéreo founder Simón Mejía electrifies nature for a different kind of jungle music on his debut solo album, Mirla.

Music

The Flaming Lips Reimagine Tom Petty's Life in Oklahoma on 'American Head'

The Flaming Lips' American Head is a trip, a journey to the past that one doesn't want to return to but never wants to forget.

Music

Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.

Music

Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.

Music

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" Is an Ode for Unity in Troubling Times (premiere)

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" is a gentle, prayerful tune that depicts the heart of their upcoming album, Crucible.

Music

'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.

Music

Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.

Television

Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.

Film

Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.

Music

The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.