Pushing all the right buttons
With Go Plastic, Squarepusher delivers on its earlier promise
Tom Jenkinson, the deliriously prolific splatter 'n' bass/jazz-fission stilt-walker, has recorded under the Squarepusher moniker since 1994. His new Warp Records release, Go Plastic, is quite remarkable.
Jenkinson's reputation as an acid-guzzling, genre-abrading freak is well-founded — his early Feed Me Weird Things and Big Loda collections posited amphetamine jungle abstractions amidst complex, agreeably chaotic modalities. Those recordings recalled crank-laced Mahavishnu Orchestras doing dirt-bike wheelies around mountains of burning tires while whirling, spray-painted boom boxes blasted unauthorized Photek remix CDs.
Mostly, though, they made one wish that Squarepusher would stop fucking around. Jenkinson's prodigious talent often seemed squandered; Loda's sped-up James Brown samples were particularly grating. As a musician of disquieting sensitivity and ingratiating, intuitive perversity, the Chelmsford, England, native probably couldn't help himself. His ecumenical bent, simultaneously admirable and damnable, ensured 1998's Music is Rotted One Note would successfully plunder the less wearisome signatures of the (rightfully maligned) fusion genre without descending into torpor. That Jenkinson performed all of the album's instrumental parts with wit, verve and undeniable skill became somewhat less impressive in that Rotted never really poisoned one's blood, never sent the startled serpent sliding through Jaco Pastorious' skull's eyeholes.
A deluge of releases followed, including the Budahkan Mindphone and Maximum Priest mini-albums, and the Selection Sixteen CD. All of these works were emblazoned with Squarepusher's cadaverous smile, but none danced a shamanic can-can with shirttails flaming — at least not in the manner that Jenkinson's more disturbed fans had imagined he might someday realize.
Go Plastic solves this problem once and for all — it's flawless in its execution, pandering neither to genre orthodoxies (though frequently dancing around them) nor to expectations of any conceivable critical or pharmacological stripe. It's perfect.
The lead-off single, "My Red Hot Car," is — in its own lopsided way — as inventive as Prince's "When Doves Cry." Obscured by twentieth-of-a-second editing, judicious filtering and a blissfully non-ironic, laconic vocals, the song's actual lyric — "I'm gonna fuck you with my red-hot cock" (available in its less bowdlerized, though curiously tepid, form on the "My Big Red Car" maxi-single) — flowers into the unusual, mesmerizing grace of a nine-headed hydra (with the mugs of dub prophet Lee Perry and LSD inventor Albert Hoffman on display prominently). Its flames will kill, however, so stand back.
Elsewhere on the CD, "Boneville Occident," "Go! Spastic," and "Greenways Trajectory" are jaw-droppers, plain and simple. No one has made music quite like this before — certainly not with such disquieting, gleeful assurance. These tracks elude description. Suffice it to say that if you abhor the more flaccid tangents of drum 'n' bass, loathe Moby on sight and would prefer not to be battered by the anvil 'n' ice-pick destructo-beats of Panacea, then Go Plastic is recommended without reserve.
Squarepusher's scheduled performance, Aug. 29, at the Echo Lounge, has been cancelled.??