DISCUS Remaster - Aquarius Recods review:
Those of you who are in your thirties or forties, no doubt remember the era that spawned the Strapping Fieldhands, think Trumans Water, Thinking Fellers, Sun City Girls, Pavement, the Grifters, Guided By Voices... The Strapping Fieldhands would go on to make a bunch more records, but Discus is where it all started, and is STILL the group's masterwork, a chaotic and confusional jumble of nineties indie noise rock and British Invasion pop, and as the liner notes point out, there's also a definite pre-British Invasion skiffle feel to many of the songs, skiffle being the sound that inspired the sound of the Beatles and the Kinks and all the other British bands of the era. The record itself is a hodge podge, a stumbling, glorious ramshackle jumble, slipping from gorgeous perfect pop, to angular free noise drift, to dirgey balladry, to rollicking rocking, to super experimental sound collage, most of those elements and sounds blending and mixing, into a sound, and a collection of songs, that sounded like nothing else then, and nothing since. Folks into Elephant 6 might be surprised to discover there was a band doing something similar, and arguably better already, and everyone who digs the new wave of noise rock / garage pop, a la Sic Alps, Oh Sees, it would be hard to imagine that those guys hadn't heard and dug heavily the Fieldhands.
The opening of "Boo Hoo Hoo" still gives us chills, the jaunty whistle, the woozy jangle, the faux British vocals, the immediately irresistible hook, the chorus with it's cloying melody and random cowbell, still one of the greatest pop songs ever. In fact, the opening three tracks, are another one of those timeless classic opening sonic salvos that remains pretty much untouchable. "Boo Hoo Hoo" is followed by "Sad Lament Of The American Indian", which begins all dirgey and druggy, totally reminiscent of Thinking Fellers / Sun City Girls and Polvo too, the chords warped and off kilter, the drums stumbly and chaotic, before slipping right back into another incredible pop jam, wrapped in streaks of feedback, hooky and jangly, and so catchy, but still so warped and just slightly twisted. "When You Came" rounds out the opening trio, with its dramatic slow build, and heartfelt sort-of-chorus, at which point the record begins its decent into (even more) madness, skipping gleefully from perfect pop to whatthefuck and back again. "Coffin Cello" is all splattery percussion, detuned twang, twisted vocals, moaning and groaning, if anything it sounds a bit like Cromagnon, total caveman psychedelia, which leads right into "Battle Down The Quarter Mile", a total classic pop gem, with strange looped basslines, descending crystalline guitar melodies, distorted vocals, and another KILLER chorus, which again slips back into an organ drenched, ultra lo-fi, droned out bit of weirdo outrock, before returning to poppier climes, "Mysterious Girl" is another impossibly perfect and hooky chunk of jangle pop, this time laced with cello, and other strings, which leads directly into "Luminous Bodies", a weirdo track that starts out almost punk rock, muted and murky, before blossoming into a meandery bit of poppy dirge, laced with synths and crunchy guitars, and those amazing, sort of British vocals, and so it goes. Push and pull, back and forth, tease you with a bit of sonic confection, only to bludgeon you with a flurry of chaotic crunch, and then nurse you back with still more pop prettiness, sometimes the demarcation between the Fieldhands' two distinct sides, not so distinct at all, which is precisely what makes them, and this record in particular so magical.
Imagine the Sun City Girls, but if instead of being obsessed with Southeast Asian music, they were obsessed with the Kinks and the Bee Gees, Discus would have been their Torch Of The Mystics. Guided By Voices' Bee Thousand, another pop classic from the same era, is considered by many to be essential listening a classic of the era, while Discus often slips through the cracks, which is odd when you consider that both groups, and both records, are essentially products of the same sonic obsessions, but Bee Thousand, for all its quirkiness and brevity of song, still goes down a whole lot easier than Discus, which is perhaps one of the main reasons Discus remained an acquired taste, but as we all know, the easiest listening is not necessarily the most satisfying, so if you like a little grit and grime with your jangle, some whatthefuck with your timeless hooks, some noise with your pop, then this will undoubtedly be your new favorite record. And all the kids who have been digging the new wave of home brewed retro lo-fi garage pop, are gonna be in for a shock when they realize their favorite bands are basically doing what the Fieldhands were doing 15 years ago, and if anything Discus is WAY weirder, WAY poppier, and WAY BETTER!
DISCUS Remaster - Amazon.com Review: