3. Kiss It Goodbye - She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not
In the geology of metalcore, Deadguy is bedrock. A seminal hardcore act of the early nineties, they weren’t necessarily the first to do it, but they were certainly one of the angriest and most capable groups to ever to try their hand at fusing metal and hardcore, spawning a discography that consisted of a couple of EPs and a full-length, Fixation On A Co-Worker - angry and capable enough that song titles like “Doom Patrol” and “Makeshift Atomsmasher” come off contextually appropriate rather than ironic, as with later metalcore acts.
On the surface, given how influential Fixation On A Co-Worker has proven to be on the landscape of metalcore despite its relative obscurity, it would seem logical to include it among the new classics of the American Metalcore Project, if only to give it another shot at popularity. It innovates the sort of angularity that The Dillinger Escape Plan and the rest of the mathcore scene thrives upon, yet too often goes unmentioned. It’s a compelling argument that helped Fixation stick around right up until it came time to finalize the list of new classics, but I ultimately decided to give the spot to Deadguy’s even more underappreciated successor. I considered expanding the count to seven albums, but decided against that, too. I said that the new classics of the American Metalcore Project don’t always reflect the very best of the subgenre. Fixation On A Co-Worker is what I had in mind, but this is in no way meant to diminish or undercut She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not, which sees members of Deadguy linking up with members of Rorschach to record an album every bit as unhinged as Deadguy’s best, and worthy of even broader recognition.
For one, She Loves Me... takes Fixation’s sound even further, amping up the jagged songwriting and dragging it through sludge territory and the slower, more face-pounding side of hardcore, then welding it to a message and aesthetic every bit as powerful. As well-executed as Deadguy’s take on metalcore is on Fixation, it’s a sound that’s already been noticed, picked up, and taken places, and if a horrifically underfunded and underbooked tour in support of the album hadn’t broken the band, maybe we’d be talking about them as contemporaries of the Dillinger Escape Plan today. Maybe they would have usurped Botch in the metalcore pantheon. Instead, we have the opportunity to look back and see how these hardships unexpectedly hatched something much slower, uglier, and severely neglected:
Kiss It Goodbye.
While not strictly a concept album, there is a through-line to She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not. Running underneath all heavy music is a current of frustration. The anger, anxiety, and violence of “angry music” like metal and hardcore springs from some discontent with the self, with others, with society; from a creeping awareness that things have somehow gone wrong, even if we can’t place just how. This discontent takes as many forms as there are subgenres of metal, hardcore, and now metalcore. It’s arguably why we have subgenres, each one a conduit for some nebulous rage in desperate need of articulation. Deadguy understood that, but Kiss It Goodbye bring it to the fore and brood on it, so that each song emerges as a furnace-blast of raw urban ennui.
Out of all the bands performing in all these niche styles, it’s hard to find a voice that articulates your anger, your disaffection, and your paranoia quite like Tim Singer. He’s frustration incarnate. Eschewing the high-and-low approach of most metalcore vocalists, he simply lets loose like the bygone greats of punk and metal with the voice he’s got. It’s a damn scary one. His arsenal consists of the natural cracks and squeals of his voice, of reckless leaps of tone and pitch, but this isn’t screamo, and these flaws aren’t vulnerability. He sounds like he’s going to hurt you. His spoken-word rambling and screaming is matched by a backdrop every bit as murderous as his delivery. It oozes and lurches with him, spikes and lunges when he does. His sidewinding lyricism, his explosive outbursts and moments of stare-eyed calm are reflected so instinctively by the music that Tim’s stand-out performance melts into the whole. You’ve never heard synergy like this. “Helvetica” is unadulterated rage and paranoia, a beatdown worthy of “The Broken Vow,” “Floater,” and “Memphis Will Be Laid To Waste” and a statement of intent like few other openers in metalcore: the door slamming resolutely shut on the hot, windowless room you’ll spend the next forty minutes sharing with a madman.
Addiction. Depression. Exploitation. Grief. Ignorance. Politicians. Manipulators. Abusers. All get their turn in front of the firing squad. Numerous emotional peaks are reached throughout - “Man Thing” being the biggest surprise, which I won’t spoil - but special attention has to be paid to “What If.” In some alternate timeline (I won’t call it a perfect one), this song is as embedded in heavy-music culture as Rage Against the Machine’s “Killing in the Name.” It specifies that song’s naive rebellion and inverts its spunk into something harsher and truer, stripping away the anthemic one-liners to reveal the oppressive, incoherent malaise of what it is to live in fear of authority and in fear of those presumed to help; to hate them and the system that couches and shields them; to have nothing to fight it but the two hands clutching your head and the spittle flying from your lips.
Kiss It Goodbye excel at capturing this helplessness and making it last, making you feel it. This is heavy stuff in every way, and after a while, it doesn’t sound like something made by people. Give it enough time, and it stops resembling music played on instruments. This album is a concentrated, forty-five-minute gout of rage, a direct line to the id and the magmatic frustration that powers us through our routines; to the inescapable certainty that something is deeply, fundamentally wrong. In the world that Kiss It Goodbye despise and expose on She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not, one that exists right there in our news and in our neighborhoods, stark and real and inescapable, it’s not enough to flip an officer the bird. It’s not enough to shout that you won’t do what you’re told. That’s what gets you shot.
Wherein Brian hilariously overanalyzes a subgenre of metal!