By Gay For Johnny Depp
Gay For Johnny Depp's 'Manthology' is a career-spanning retrospective to put all other retrospectives to shame: a whopping thirty-one track roundup of the band's entire recorded output to date. Not only does the tracklisting include their debut full length, but also their two previous EPs; their brand new EP; songs from a super-rare tour single, of which only 100 copies were ever made; and a version of their 'Shh, Put The Shiv To My Throat' single remixed by Blacksmoke. While retrospectives will always have a whiff of 'cash in' about them, the rarity of much of the material on offer here, plus the new songs, means that 'Manthology' offers a way for Gay For Johnny Depp fans to complete their collection, without having to hunt for rare CDs on Ebay.
Gay For Johnny Depp have found their niche churning out two minute blasts of abrasive noise, coupled with lyrics that detail a homoerotic fixation with the actor Johnny Depp, in pantomime-crude terms. The effect is a rip-roaring hardcore racket that'll hit the spot with fans of extreme hardcore - and then have them doing a double-take when the lyrics start to sink in. Those with a crude or controversial sense of humour, will enjoy this just as much as those with a penchant for hardcore, although you have to wonder whether Gay For Johnny Depp can forge a lasting career, once the shock value begins to wear off.
First up in the tracklisting is Gay For Johnny Depp's undoubted highpoint: their twelve track debut album 'Politics Of Cruelty,' where the band are perfectly poised between the raw sprawl of old, and the tamed coherence of their latest EP.
The highlight of 'Politics of Cruelty' is 'Lights Out!' Here, glimmery passages and melodic vocals, courtesy of secondary vocalist Sid Jagger (real name Joseph Grillo), sit uneasily next to terrifying hardcore seizures that resemble The Ghost Of A Thousand at their most confrontational - and then some. Gay For Johnny Depp have an unnerving talent for stopping a hairsbreadth short of alienating the listener. Also included for your delight, is the original version of 'Lights Out!' Even without the help of studio finish, it's still a great song.
Battling with 'Lights Out!' for the title of 'Politics Of Cruelty' highlight, is 'Juicy's Last $ (Point The Finger).' It's experimental hardcore-metal that's perfectly, instantly accessible, thanks to a unifying bass line and a smattering of hooky, fluttery guitars and "p-p-p-point the finger" vocals. And the hooks continue to come thick and fast with bristling hardcore-punk anthem 'To The Alcoholics: Life Is Depressing.' Shrieky chords and a tight, quivery bass line make for a vengeful racket, with razor-sharp hooks to boot.
Even when Gay For Johnny Depp aren't spiking their thoroughly unpleasant hardcore with sleek and shiny hooks, they still keep things tight with unifying bass grooves and a hard-rock swagger. This is the case with 'Cumpassion' and 'You Have A Theory, I Have A Gun.'
Less immediate cuts are 'Very Little Good Happens Between 3 And 4 am' and 'Delirium Approached (Slut Dust).' The former is the most difficult to get to grips with, hurtling along on supercharged military drumbeats, while frontman and chief-screamer Marty Leopard shrieks himself hoarse. One strictly for extreme hardcore fanatics. Next to 'Very Little Good...' the abrasive chaos of 'Delirium Approached (Slut Dust)' feels almost accessible, thanks to flashes of secondary clean vocals, which give the listener a route into Gay For Johnny Depp's madness.
Just when you thought you had Gay For Johnny Depp pegged as vocalists, they unleash the deranged falsetto of 'Belief In God Is So Adorable.' A vocal with a manic gleam in its eye and a debt to pay to horror movies, and a song to make your flesh crawl.
Scattered throughout the album are three instrumental interludes, 'Noise' 'Happens' and 'Here.' The first two are pointless and come across as an album 'in-joke,' but the third leads into explosive album-closer 'I Hate Our Freedom (Fuck You Gladys, I'm On Vacation).' 'I Hate Our Freedom...' features a suffocating bass rumble that curls tighter and tighter around itself in the background, while the foreground spits and snarls with messy hardcore-punk fury. It's all executed with a surprisingly epic flair. 'I Hate Our Freedom...' is a grandiose tower of aggression and nastiness, with only an overlong instrumental ending to hold it back.
By kicking off with their strongest record to date, Gay For Johnny Depp shoot themselves in the foot: the rest of the album feels inevitability inferior. Case in point is 2005 EP 'Blood: The Natural Lubricant,' which is next in the tracklisting. Even when they're in full-blown riot mode, Gay For Johnny Depp still sound weedier, than on 'Politics Of Cruelty.' Marty Leopard's vocals are also noticeably less accomplished. Still, once you re-adjust to this rougher, rawer version of the band, 'Blood: The Natural Lubricant' teases the listener with hints of what was to make 'Politics Of Cruelty' so great.
EP highlights are the professional-sounding 'Sex In Your Mouth' and the art-metal grind of 'Fucking Isn't Cheating.' The former, displays the cocksure swagger of later releases. Grating and bristling along to an ingeniously twisty guitar rhythm, there's only an end-section of clunking, awkward-sounding drums distinguishing it from latter-day Gay For Johnny Depp material. Meanwhile, 'Fucking Isn't Cheating' channels all that free-wheeling fury into a sleek, relentless metal ploughing that's like a sledgehammer to the senses.
'No Teeth Thumbs Up' and 'Shh, Put The Shiv To My Throat' administer a double dose of rasping hardcore-punk. 'Shh, Put The Shiv To My Throat' is the most accomplished of the two, boasting an end-section storm of guitars that's absolutely terrifying. But, 'Shh, Put The Shiv To My Throat's ability to strike fear into the listener's heart, is nothing compared to 'Nothing Worse Than A Whining Boy.' An outpouring of madman vocals and shrieking guitars that collapses into spasms of skin-flaying drums, guitars and vocals; it lacks even a hint of coherence, tunefulness or accessibility. A headache-inducing racket of extreme hardcore, and the angriest song you'll hear all year.
Gay For Johnny Depp follow up this blast from the past with brand new EP 'The Ski Mask Orgy.' After highlighting the vast improvement between 'Blood: The Natural Lubricant' and 'Politics Of Cruelty,' their latest EP is disappointing. The major problem is that Gay For Johnny Depp embrace their experimental, art-rock leanings, at the expense of their old fury. This is encapsulated by EP-closer 'No One Knows Anyone, Not Really,' which is basically a short voiceover stuck on a loop, interspersed with snippets of avant-garde metal. It just isn't as much fun as it used to be.
This is also the problem with EP-opener, the jazzy and shambolic 'Seriously Ted, Just Admit It.' Lurching drums, stop-start guitars and constant breaks for instrumental interludes, means 'Seriously Ted, Just Admit It' never builds up any real velocity. 'Condo Shots (Bad Day To Be A Templar)' however, takes a similarly ramshackle drum line and wraps it up in barbed-wire guitars, recapturing some of the nastiness of earlier releases.
'The Ski Mask Orgy' does boast two gems, in the form of the brilliantly entitled 'Hey Fucked Up! (Punk Rock Can't Exist In Countries With Good Social Services)' and 'We Bleed America (Dad Get The Cuffs.)' The latter is at times a hit-and-miss affair, featuring harmonica and choir sections, and pointless, half-heard voiceovers, which all should have been left on the cutting room floor. But, overlook those niggles, and 'We Bleed America...' builds from a thundering heavy metal instrumental, to a relentless, guitar-led crunch that'll beat a steady path into your long term memory.
'Hey Fucked Up!..' is the EP highlight. Driven by an inspired military drum line, 'Hey Fucked Up!..' rises to sleek, juggernaut choruses that perfectly blend the fury of old, with 'The Ski Mask Orgy's newfound control and coherence. This is what the whole of this EP should have sounded like, but sadly doesn't.
New material done and dusted, 'Manthology' skips back to 2004 for the band's debut EP 'Politically Charged Dance Songs For The Desperate.' 'He Loved It So Much He Went Mad' is a supremely annoying voiceover clip looped over a very basic musical accompaniment, and is best avoided, but the rest of the EP is raw aggression at its finest.
'Kill The Cool Kids' is tormented technical art-metal, with passages of lightening-fast chord-mangling and an earlier version of the swagger that made 'Politics Of Cruelty' so weirdly accessible. Tearing at its own tangled guitar lines whilst swinging back and forth like a heavy metal wrecking ball, and finished off with Marty Leopard's gnashing, 'Kill The Cool Kids' is a shot of genuine, wild-eyed aggression. The same can be said for 'At Least Be A Target,' where jagged riffs reel through blastbeat drumming. It'd be headache-inducing, if it wasn't for frequent 'time outs,' where 'At Least Be A Target' chugs steadily along and gives the listener a much-needed breather. This is as chaotic as a song can get, without being just noise.
'She Said, "I Like This One" takes a different approach to traumatising the listener. Stripping things back to a pulsing guitar line, it exposes every wrench and rip in Leopard's vocals, which makes for ghoulishly compelling listening. But, Gay For Johnny Depp can't restrain themselves forever and unleash a storm of guitars that has 'She Said, "I Like This One" expiring on an earbleed-inducing high.
After covering all their major releases, Gay For Johnny Depp treat us to three bonus tracks. The first, is a version of 'Shh, Put The Shiv To My Throat' remixed by Blacksmoke. The poised, swaggering instrumental sections now have more of a gallop, while elsewhere Blacksmoke dismantle 'Shh, Put The Shiv To My Throat' down to drums and funky electro beats, once again highlighting the broken-glass texture of Leopard's vocals. Blacksmoke manage to maintain the twisted metal heart of this song, whilst adding their own touch in the form of crunching electro and additional dizzy riffs. This is a trippy, danceable interpretation of 'Shh...' that, impressively, loses none of that original heaviness and strangeness.
The final two tracks were released as a very exclusive 7" single, of which only 100 copies were ever made. Disappointingly, they turn out to be instrumentals that bare little resemblance to Gay For Johnny Depp's other material. 'Godspeed You Black Mogwai' is a downbeat meander, trimmed in dewy chords and with a soft, echoey production that creates a haunting sense of empty space. 'Happy Go Loopy' is more upbeat, underpinned by a jaunty bass pulse and overlaid with tinny guitar-plucking. They're accomplished instrumentals, but they sit awkwardly in the narrative of this album.
Eschewing the usual 'Best Of' format, in favour of sticking their entire back catalogue on one disc, means that this is a worthwhile purchase, even if you already own some Gay For Johnny Depp material. The New York four piece have found a niche in the current scene, through adding a dash of humour (albeit of a decidedly nasty, sleazy variety) to the usually straight-faced, extreme hardcore scene. Although they do have a tendency to veer into experimental, arty metal, which isn't nearly as entertaining as when they're churning out the noise; this is a fast, furious assault to the senses. Saying this packs one hell of a punch, is an understatement.