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Viza-Noir: No Record

Jason Thompson


No Record

Label: Flameshovel
US Release Date: 2003-06-24

So here we are with yet another band from Chicago doing yet another math rock/post-punk sound that manages to bore the pants off anyone within a hundred mile radius. The Windy City has been host to a number of groups like these, and I've yet to hear anything terribly interesting coming from the ranks. Is the music scene there so dreadful that these kids are getting so bored that they teach themselves how to make other music that's more boring in turn?

For the most part, the whole math rock genre has been lost on me. I get the fact that these groups are trying to make something a bit more challenging than the standard 4/4 pop that so many other people enjoy doing, but in doing so does it always have to be so damn predictable? I mean, that is in fact what these bands are doing when trotting out this kind of noise. They're not deviating from the norm because their own norm has gained its own toehold in the musical communities, such that one band starts sounding like the next with its "unexpected" rhythms, "strange" guitar breaks, and "angst-ridden" vocals that all the other reviewers like to hail as something unique and exciting.

Forget that, though. When I listen to bands such as Viza-Noir and their albums like No Record, I get the distinct feeling that these acts are nothing but a bunch of navel gazers. If you want to challenge the listeners, then do so. There are better ways of doing it than by trying to rip off such influences as Wire, Gang of Four, Mission of Burma, et al and failing. Seriously, there's nothing that convincing on this album that won't make you want to go hear something older and better afterward.

The band is comprised of Joe Kaplan on drums, Dan MacAdam on guitar and vocals, and Mike O'Connell on bass and vocals. And yes, once again, that means that the lean and mean trio sound is going to go nowhere pretty fast as all the ideas are executed within the first song or so. Actually, the first song, "Run for Mayor", is the best thing here, with a nice bass-heavy groove and ringing lead guitar that runs through some nice riffs and melodies. I actually had hope for this band when hearing this track, but after that it was all unsurprisingly downhill.

After that, the band runs through diluted post-punk (title track), and some lame instrumentals such as "You're Going to Break That Chair, Tom Colley" and "The Claw Machine" that seem completely directionless, as if the Grateful Dead suddenly learned how to make songs under 30 minutes and fancied themselves as pocket protector wearing geeks. Yet these are almost a welcome respite from the other tunes.

Dan MacAdam just can't sing, period. Listening to he and O'Connell vocalize on "She's a Machine" and "Luge Me" is a test of one's patience. At times they're right in tune, and at other moments they're so far off the mark it's embarrassing. But perhaps this is all part of the carefully equated recipe. I don't know. All I do know is that it became annoying fast and didn't make me want to listen to this group for very long.

So it goes, though. Another math rock band with nothing new to play or say. The abstract "strangeness" of the lyrics gets as tiring as the abstract goofiness of the time signatures and "jarring" guitar work. There truly are better things to listen to out there. I'd wager that even Hillary Duff's album is cooler than No Record. Clearly, in Viza-Noir's case, this is an example of you've heard one, you've heard 'em all. Perhaps the whole math rock genre will die off one day and then there'll be no more navel gazing. One can only hope.

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