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Big Apple Hardcore

[whitespace] Dripping Goss' latest effort will appeal to both the low-brow and the high-IQ

By Nicky Baxter

Two decades after its screaming-meemie birth, the New York hardcore scene is alive and flailing. Like the city itself, the music is a twisted tangle of seeming opposites--experimental jazz, noisy skronk and buzz-saw rock. One of the genre's best-kept secrets, Dripping Goss (frontman Brian Goss on guitars and vocals, Daniel Souza on guitar and vocals, bassist Curt Steyer and drummer Tobias Ralph) is a small revelation. A ballsy admixture of corrosive guitars, machine-gun rhythms and stark, ominous lyrics, the band's music snatches listeners by the throats and doesn't let go.

Blue Collar, Black Future, out on the CBGB label, may be Dripping Goss' most accomplished effort to date. True, the ultra-heavy Blowtorch Consequences' Soundgarden-collides-with-Nine Inch Nails sonic roar was an ear-opener, but that album struck some as a slightly schizoid affair. Blue Collar, Black Future harnesses various strands into a sound that, while not wholly uniform, is more cohesive.

Everything smashes into place beginning with the punishing opening salvo, "Blue Collar, Black Future." Set to a compulsively repetitive riff, the track threatens to careen out of control. Steyer and Ralph zoom in on the backbeat with malevolent glee. Ditto singer Goss, whose pent-up fury splatters all over the place. He uses his larynx like a weapon, spitting out the lyric with a clipped Morse code efficiency. His lyrics ("Shakes--hang on, that's right/Fate--everything carries a toll/Face--hangman's last try/Escape--everything's under control.") are weighted with a kind of paranoid mania that attracts as much as it repulses. Like a youthful Bob Mould, Goss has little patience with subtlety. His intention is to make us feel his pain and frustration with a world gone haywire.

"Long Black Motorcade" continues the singer's obsessive emotional spillage. Triggered by a cloud of distort-o guitar and crashing drums, "Motorcade" finds Goss answering the smug refrain ("Time heals everything/This won't mean a thing") with a chillingly bleak, if enigmatic, assessment of his predicament: "My sight is on long black motorcade."

Interestingly, Goss and his Dripping compadres are less convincing when they take aim at specific subjects. "Mercenary Woman," for instance, is tripped up by its gratuitously mean-spirited lyric (sorry, but forced sodomy's gotta smart) and faux-Peter Gunn guitar diddling. Still, for every "Mercenary Woman" there is a "Cloud Stained Mattress" or "Dark Horse Connection."

On "Cloud Stained Mattress," a thick, wobbly bass figure and heaving jungle riddims announce the song's entrance. Goss and Souza's angular guitar lines intersect, then abruptly diverge, one whining noisily, the other peeling off bursts of staccato. About three-quarters of the way into the track, Ralph's ticking cymbal work sets up a quick but tasty jazz guitar flourish, which soon retreats in the face of a mammoth, Black Sabbath-like metal assault. Goss and Souza double-up on vocals sounding like a pair of automatons fixated on self-destruction.

"Darkhorse" manages to cram seemingly disparate elements into the space of a single tune. The tune commences with a prog-punk pulse, then shifts down into a waltzing, swirl of psychedelia. From nowhere comes a chorus of soul-sister warbling and off-kilter R&B horns, buttressing Goss's earnest vocal. An extended coda finds the group shifting gears again, this time slipping into a cocktail jazz vein, complete with tinkling piano. The effect is giddily disorienting.

Blue Collar, Black Future is a multidirectional, chancy effort from one of the Big Apple's brightest hopes. This is the kind of new hardcore that can appeal to low-brow headbangers and high-IQ types without compromising a shred of musical integrity.

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Web extra to the February 18-24, 1999 issue of Metro.

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