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The Body: No One Deserves Happiness

No One Deserves Happiness, is the Body's attempt to make "the grossest pop album of all time". Well, they've certainly shown another bend in their malleable sound.

The Body

No One Deserves Happiness

US Release: 2016-03-18
Label: Thrill Jockey
UK Release: 2016-03-18
Label Website

To talk about the sound of the Body is to usually reference words like heavy, dark, and punishing. And, sure, there's some truth to all that. But there's something more fundamental it the band's sound: its physicality. These are sounds that seem like to can feel them -- every deep crag, every towering ridge. They rut out space and fill it up. This is what makes the Body so malleable, what allows them collaborate with both Haxon Cloak and Full of Hell, both Krieg and (soon now) the Bug.

The duo's new album, No One Deserves Happiness, is the Body's attempt -- in their own words -- to make "the grossest pop album of all time." Chip King and Lee Buford certainly deliver something different on this record, but it's hard to say in what ways they're playing with pop structures. But, then again, the claim feels just as provocative as the songs themselves, so perhaps that's where the two align. No matter if they achieve the desired grossness, King and Buford have certainly shown another bend in their malleability.

The album doesn't have less textures than 2013's Christs, Redeemers, necessarily, but the layers seem cleaned up a bit, easier to distinguish from one another. Chrissy Wolpert's vocals coast above the fray on opener "Wanderings", first filling in the space over a sparely treated beat and then gliding along the waves of distortion and rumbling guitar hooks. It's a song that swells more than it roils, so that it's not gentler than anything before but maybe a bit more polished. The result doesn't make it seem brighter or tamer than previous work, just a new variation on the same shadow themes. "Shelter is Illusory" is where they really start to play with texture and structure. The song is rife with Chip King's distant banshee howl, but it also clatters along on an industrial 808 beat. As with any other samples on the record here, the Body is sampling themselves, running their own sounds through machines and production treatments to make new sounds. It's far from a pop song, but it has a fresh sense of space to it, one that Wolpert and guest vocalist Maralie Armstrong fill with full-throated, even sweet, singing.

"Two Snakes" builds another sharp-edged, off-kilter beat, but meshes it with the elements we expect from the Body: razorwire guitars, otherworldly screaming, an angelic choir of layered voices. It finds the band at their most volatile here, finding new ways to create ordered chaos, and finding ways to make the mechanized and industrial seem blood-and-bone real, seem human. That's always been the Body's secret weapon. As they push experiments further and further, you never feel them getting lost in esotericism. Instead, they hone craft to generate feeling and reaction. The feeling of punishment, perhaps, but the best stuff pushes past that to something more transcendent. "Two Snakes" gets there. So does the brilliant layers and propulsive beat of "Starving Deserter". "The Fall and the Guilt" turns the band's physicality on its head, morphing all that distortion and weight into something ethereal and drifting, resolving in a buzzing pulse of guitar and cello.

The album is not always as revolutionary a turn as the "grossest pop album" conceit might suggest, but mostly this is a good thing. The subtlety of "Shelter is Illusory" gets sandblasted by the onslaught of "For You" in a way that feels too ham-handed for this record. Mostly, though, the Body have given us another fascinating record in No One Deserves Happiness. Nothing is as definite or as nihilistic as the title suggests, and it's the shifting nature of these songs that make it an album worth exploring. There are secret little corners to find in revisiting this dark world, new shapes carved out of the claustrophobic spaces the Body creates. It's physical in a familiar way, true, but it also feels different in the right moments.


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