Neuralgias II – “Rodeo” by SQRM is now 10 years old

Just the fact that it’s been ten years pisses me off. Natsume Sōseki said that to escape the tyranny of time and life, there are only three doors: death, madness and faith. The last one I never had, nor is there any prospect of having a social-religious epiphany, like Tolstoy already old and ready to go to his grave. The first will inevitably happen, but is it even worth anticipating it? David Benatar in “The Human Predicament” answers:

“Those who do not exist have no interest in coming into existence. By contrast, once one has come into existence, one typically has an interest in continuing to exist. Unlike never coming into existence, ceasing to exist is tragic. One reason it is tragic is that it involves the annihilation of the one who dies. In cases of rational suicide, it is also tragic because the interest in continued existence is outweighed by the interest in avoiding the burdens of life”.

There’s only madness left as an answer. And I don’t even know why I’m so philosophical on this text. “Rodeo” is the exact opposite. It’s the swapping rationality for primitivism. Yeah, we can say that about basically any good punk record, particularly those released by Youth Attack.

But there are differences. Let’s start with the cover: a sad, colored clown, contrasting with the black & white/faceless designs in almost any YA release (the stupid tag “mysterious guy hardcore” was even used to describe bands like Gas Rag or Raw Nerve). When looking at this artwork, we can’t really know what’s inside – even if it brings to mind a classic Butthole Surfers t-shirt.

VINTAGE BUTTHOLE SURFERS Clown Tee 1996 Tour XL Shirt T-shirt tee ...

Then, the pace. The vast majority of good 80s hardcore punk is short-fused. Rare are the tracks that last longer than a minute. Siege‘s “Drop Dead” is only 16 minutes long because almost half of that time is the slow and demented “Grim Reaper” where feedback, improvisation and saxophones take part in an anti-hygienic orgy.

But SQRM seems to be a byproduct of this nauseating pigsty, where Brainbombs, Rapeman or the aforementioned Butthole Surfers have wallowed. “Rodeo” is mostly a mid-tempo record, reminding us as well of the leper-like rhythms and bass pounding of “Filth” by the Swans.

In fact, Anthony Pasquarosa‘s vocal performance (now a folk musician), odiously spitting out short, simple sentences, is not too distant from Michael Gira‘s early years on stage – justlisten to “Public Castration Is A Good Idea”. In both, disgust and aversion are clear. With lyrics ranging from pure nihilism to sexual tension (two years later, Rectal Hygienics would follow this approach with “Even Flies Won’t Touch You”) where that barrage of whiplashing verses in the self-titled track turned into an immediate classic:

“Your fucking scene, your fucking face, your fucking looks, you’re a fucking disgrace! Call me a freak! Don’t like my clothes, don’t like my hair! I’m a fucking freak, spit on me, just sit and fucking stare!”

I can’t believe it’s been a decade. Disgust goes up my throat too, and I just feel like throwing up. I’m tired, I’m old. Then again, “Rodeo” still makes as much sense now as it did in 2010.