Irony is a hard act to sustain. Initially it emphasises a certain sense of intellectual superiority to that which is being mocked, yet sustained exposure to it leads to the line between pastiche and self-actualisation blurring. Look at Terry Richardson. Look at Morrissey. Their personification of a certain aesthetic and mindset became their downfall as they lost all traces of humanity in the process. As an artist, you don’t want to be forever thought of as a novelty. And yet how do you move on from mimicry and imitation, when you’ve chosen that as an oeuvre? And how long will it take before you become that which you despise?
Ultimately it depends on your approach. Let’s take a look at white boys and funk. There are basically two paths to go down musically and visually. You can take the Talking Heads, Liquid Liquid, LCD Soundsystem route of incorporating bass motifs into your sound and embracing the melody and groove affectionately. Or you can be the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, or worse the Red Hot Chili Peppers, rapping out aggressive sexist tripe over cod funky riffs whilst dressing as sleazy car salesmen, obnoxious cowboys or worse, getting your dick out.
Sadly live, Warmduscher have decided on taking the macho route, thankfully minus the dicks. They affect southern redneck accents, wear odd dated costumes and they swagger and imitate uncomfortable men for supposed comedic effect. Tonight’s show, in support of newly released third album Tainted Lunch, is an excruciatingly long hour of them acting out that Primus video about beavers, whilst imagining they’re somehow Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band.
It’s a shame because if you stripped away the novelty costumes and the chauvinist bravado, they have way more in common with that New York response to funk. The grooves are tight, the beats infectious and as evidenced by the ecstatic crowd, eminently danceable. Front man Clams Baker – don’t roll your eyes – is oddly magnetic without the reliance on white trash posturing and in Disco Peanuts and Midnight Dipper – both from the new album – they have two insanely catchy singles that you could easily imagine getting a release on DFA circa 2003. The snarky lyrics about bumping off an enemy on last year’s I Got Friends still bring forth a smile, a sassy lyrical riposte to the escalating menace of the chugging motoric bass that underpins the song.
Older tracks like 1000 Whispers, also from the Whale City LP, showcase the hidden potential the band has up their silk sleeves. Its melody might be lifted wholesale from a Smashing Pumpkins b-side, but deep down it thinks it’s a Neil Diamond or Glen Campbell song. And therein perhaps is the problem. They think they’re writing a specific style of classic song but just coming at it all wrong artistically. It’s when they throw in the screaming that it all crumbles. It’s usually ok to let out one histrionic guttural howl per album as an indicator of depth of feeling, but really it can only be one and it has to be worth it. Any trace of sophistication and wisdom gets lost in a cloud of petulant grandstanding when you keep doing it.
All is not lost, however, for hope lopes low on the horizon. After decades of childishness, both The Beastie Boys and, god forbid, the Chili Peppers grew up and dropped the incel nonsense, rerouting their sound for a more sensitive intelligent approach. Here’s hoping Warmduscher slow down and follow suit.