Published June 1, 2015
Boys and girls, we live in dank, dire times. It’s bad enough that our lives are dictated to us by a herd of inbred fools, but in music terms, it’s becoming intolerable, and scanning the state of the Icelandic “rock and roll” landscape today only brings tears of despair. There’s the cartoon hard-rock orthodoxy of the Vintage Caravan and the fetid authenticity fetishism of
Blueshammer Kaleo. And then there’s Bubbi Morthens, a bitter punk turned scenic storyteller turned whiny media whore turned Widow Twanky pantomime dame with his Dimma wank-bot backing band. The real nadir has been the fact that Monotown, a band that makes Doves sound like the end of Western civilisation, won the best rock album at this year’s Iceland Music Awards, causing yours truly to spit his homeopathic Icelandic Skyr over his artisan beard shouting, “WTF?? Are you fucking kidding me Iceland??” as blobs of creamy cheese splattered the TV screen. Truly, these people are the walking dead.
But as Greil Marcus once said, the sad thing is not that rock and roll is dead, it’s that we refuse to let it die. No matter how dull, washed-out or moribund the situation gets, we still cling on in hope for a band to come along, a band that sups from the ur-spring of rock and roll “spirit,” an increasingly hidden reservoir of bile, sex, fury and death. Pink Street Boys is one band you can at least say provides us with that vicarious thrill, if but for a moment. On the back of some incendiary performances in bars and venues all over downtown, PSB have developed a reputation for chaotic intensity smothered with hairy chests and squalling feedback. With energy spurting off in all directions, they ooze a sweaty, ugly, thuggish masculinity that’s bathed in leather and homoeroticism (Check out their video to “Evel Knievel,” where they’ve been kept captive in Kenneth Anger’s art dungeon and fed a diet of booze, poppers and paint thinner). True, bands like Singapore Sling may implore to you that they “just wanna rock and roll,” but with PSB, you stand there in the crowd thinking that at any moment all it would take is a single spark for it to completely kick off.
Of course it’s one thing to have a combustible live sound, but it’s another transferring it onto record. And while many have stumbled at this hurdle, I’m pleased to report that PSB’s latest album, ‘Hits #1’, manages to hold on and contain their live energy. Even before you put the record on the player, the cover throbs with a sleazy aura with the schlock horror pen art of Viðar Alexander Jónsson displaying grotesque flesh, slime, and cartoon violence stained in sickly purples and greens. This is a record that doesn’t want to be HEY! nice, chipper, or pleasant. No, this is an album that wants to be as icky, nasty, and dirty (oo-er missus) as possible.
From the opening bars of “Body Language” that come at you like a howitzer before the drums kick in and blow the doors off, PSB don’t stop to even think about things like #feelings or crying while masturbating. Life’s waaay too short for that. It’s an album that’s a short sharp shock, clocking in at under 25 minutes (It’s taken me longer go to the toilet), where the only purpose is to rock hard with determination, to explode before they blow themselves out.
And in this barrage of noise, a definite hat tip goes to PSB for their work on overall sound of the album (I’m guessing a large amount that there was smoke coming from the mixing desk when Curver Thoroddsen was mastering). Amongst the scuzzy redlining mix of pounding drums, blitzkrieg guitars and springy bass, ‘Hits #1’ is stuffed with lots of clever little overdubs, overloading delay and reverb effects smearing the vocals until they become nothing more than a series of abstract primal howls and shrieks. So far the only lyrics I can make out are “KICK. THE. FUCK. OUT!” on “Kick the Trash Out.” Or at least I think that’s what they are shouting.
Now, it’s worth noting there’s not that much in ‘Hits #1’ that you can say is different, new or even original within the canon of rock and roll. From Jerry Lee Lewis to the MC5 to Iggy Pop, punk and beyond, music of this form has been played by self-destructive freaks ever since the guitar became electrified. In fact the semi-previous incarnation of PSB, The Dandelion Seeds, was very much a cliché-ridden throwback to 1960s psych hippie bullshit. But you cannot deny the violent power of ‘Hits #1’, and the way that PSB uses it as a blunt, dumb instrument to bludgeon you with. When they sing “This is rock and roll/this is what we got/this is how we do it” on “Anthem,” you know that this is the only way they can do it. There is no other option but to go down in a ball of fury and flames.
If you like Pink Street boys, you’ll love these two articles:
Pink Street Boys Are Dangerous, Loud, Irreverent
During a break between songs, a friend shouts into my ear, “They are too loud!” I try to respond, but my words are lost to Pink Street Boys’ onslaught of guitars, pedals, unintelligible vocals and loud drums. At a time when cultural export is the name of the game, with local bands cashing in on the world’s interest in the dreamy and cute Icelandic sound, Pink Street Boys are unruly, crass, full of attitude, unapologetic, and as my friend previously mentioned, loud.
Drummer Vs. Drummer, Muck Vs. Pink Street Boys
When interviewing Muck and Pink Street Boys, we kept thinking, “It would be really interesting to hear the other band’s thoughts on this.” So, rather than engage in lengthy back-and-forths, we invited drummers Ási Þórðarson and Einar Björn Þórarinsson to just hash it out over a pack of beers.