Dale is the drummer in Brooklyn-based duo YVETTE and the Director of Special Projects and Other Provocations at GODMODE music. He is also a freelance writer. His work has appeared recently in the New York Daily News, Complex, The Daily Beast, The Atlantic, The Village Voice, Noisey, The Awl, Fader and elsewhere.
If you see a lot of shows in New York, you already know that PC Worship can pop up at any time: as an almost-acoustic trio at a loft show in industrial Greenpoint; as a six-piece psychedelic collective (including a djembe player), at Death By Audio, and as a more contained rock group opening for Parquet Courts at Bowery Ballroom. Justin Frye will take his barely-tuned acoustic guitar, sub bass, tape-loops, Viking drumming and skronk anywhere he can. His band can open just as easily for Swans or Young Widows or Thee Oh Sees or Arto Lindsay, and never sound like any of them.
The songs on his latest album, Social Rust, have recognizably been spun from the band’s amorphous live shows into their own solid pieces, a jetty of sub-sewer waste spiraling into the fascinating meniscus between everything and nothing. They’re the centrifugal excess wafting outwards into a lot of interesting sounds in New York right now, without ever landing anywhere central.
This album, PC Worship’s sixth, and their first for Northern Spy/Dull Tools, makes me think of dancers, mostly — the difference between the mechanical and the fluid. What does it mean to be inspired and what does it mean to be trained? Where is primacy in the body and where is it in the soul, and where do the two cross paths in public? That’s the feeling I get from Frye, an attempted resolution of the primordial and the post-technological. That’s what social rust is; the small loss of self I feel every time I click “submit” or “post” or “send.” What are we really waiting for in response and what are we really getting? The answer to these somewhat rhetorical questions is this: we’re all better off giving in more to instinct. Someday you might have to eat a rat.
Right out the gate, the electric hum of “Odd” has some distant sitar drones that hint at psych idealism before Frye completely smashes things to pieces, disrupting the calm with hair-raising screams and screeches. It’s punishing and harrowing and somehow inviting. Social Rust takes cues from stoner metal and garage-pop, but its most recognizable touchstone is the Ramones. Three or four chords, two parts, call it a day; there are even honest-to-god harmonies on “Behind the Picture,” though they’re nearly buried by the song itself. “Rust” employs that poetic, sing-song, spoken-word quality people find endearing about Parquet Courts, but without any of their optimism. Frye pairs his voice with these infernal strings, looping on an interval that might simply be out of tune. It’s unsettling yet still beautiful to me, the kind of mood Gasper Noé has managed to capture on film.
Watch documentaries like 2010’s Blank City (about New York’s late-’70s/early-’80s No Wave scene) or 2009’s We Don’t Care About Music Anyway (about Japan’s current avant-garde scene) and see for yourself how tossing an instrument around with intent becomes primary to the music. That’s not to say PC Worship is No Wave, or that bands toiling under any mayor besides Ed Koch could ever be. But the band’s work points to that lineage. Listen to “Gypsy’s.” The song opens up full-throttle and briefly deceives you into thinking it could be a Tame Impala track, before devolving into gelatinous sampling and a guitar solo only someone who knows what not to play could pull off. You shave and you look in the mirror and you shave and you look in the mirror and you shave and you look in the mirror, and before you know it, you’re at the bone. At least, that’s how I imagine the songwriting process went.
PC Worship is a band from New York City that refutes anything outside of its core humanity. It is a great band led by a great songwriter, and proof that you can still make music without having to be the flashiest, the most comprehensive, the most produced. The same really goes for living. The true underbelly will never leave New York because that is human, and the primeval might be the only thing every New Yorker has in common anymore. People living at the edge still have to flush their shit. They just don’t want to look at it.