BHYH: THE “CONSPIRACIES, GROUPTHINK, AND LOVECRAFT, OH MY” MIX

On this edition of But Have You Heard we look into the eerier side of things with a very “Coast to Coast AM” inspired track from a veteran of modern alternative, a newly released banger of an LP from a post-punk supergroup, and an excerpt from a film score that’s so Lovecraftian it’ll send shivers down your spine. Enjoy, creeps!

THE RENTALS, “CONSPIRACY”

1995 saw the release of Matt Sharp’s The Return of the Rentals. It was mostly a moogy sci-fi fuzz pop album that romanticized the loneliness of being “Gen-X In Space” or something like that. The Rentals’ second album came along in 1998 called Seven More Minutes — an exploration of Matt’s globetrotting adventures both during his time with Weezer and the first tour in support of Return. Seven flirted with some fantastical B-movie inspired themes (“The Man With Two Brains”), but it wasn’t until 2020 when The Rentals returned with a very sci-fi concept album in Q36.

The song I highlight on this record is “Conspiracy“. It’s a song that touches on a myriad of conspiracies, from the general “gubmint lies!” variety to Dead Superstars (Elvis, Princess Diana, Tupac) to Mel’s Hole!!! “Conspiracy” covers the concept of conspiracy theories spanning our modern history — stuff we’ve grown up with lingering in the background of our lives. It’s got a dope beat, sweet melodic chorus, and side-eye lyrics. Is it satirizing conspiracy theories? Perhaps, but it’s definitely acknowledging that they are here, have always been, and perhaps always will be. — Andrew Gimetzco!

SPICE, (S/T)

The term “supergroup” gets thrown around a lot it seems, evoking a sense of importance and grandeur that sometimes can ring insincere. After all, a “supergroup” is, in reality, just a group of creative individuals who share the same wavelength enough to construct something new and interesting together. I kind of hate the term because, when used irresponsibly, it prioritizes individual creators’ roles within the unit rather than their collective creative output. Not to get too philosophical just yet, but even in musical groups like these, there is no “I” in “team,” the sum is greater than its parts, the ends justify much more than the means (and other mundane platitudes, etc. etc.). 

That said, SPICE is a supergroup formed out of the murky depths of San Francisco’s North Bay, comprised of members of uniquely established bands in their own right — notably, Ceremony, Creative Adult, and Sabertooth Zombie, all of whom release their chops into a wholly new blend of compelling, emotionally charged alt-rock, post-punk, post-wave, and by that account, I guess, some descendant of no wave. Regardless of what potentially overused category we want to assign to SPICE, though, what really comes out of the project is a fresh take on several old standards; a conscientious update to the fuzzy-yet-loud guitar-driven emo of decades ago, seemingly effortlessly blending dreamy shoegaze with hard-hitting punk sounds — and throwing a very unexpected (yet very welcome) violin into the mix. The record (self-titled) is brisk, clocking in at a total of 25 minutes, but manages to leave us satiated enough to fully appreciate what we’ve just consumed, but also not wanting the savory taste to leave our palates. If the progression of post-punk goes from, like, The Fall to Jawbreaker to The Vaccines, then the next logical step is what SPICE is doing. 

Groupthink is perhaps dangerous in certain public policy, however we can’t deny the appeal of how these creators feed off what even they themselves call “the power of groupthink”; individual parts have to work together as one in order to create harmony. While considering this album review, I thought initially about a kind of worker bee scenario when it comes to a supergroup’s creative output — a hive mind in which every member is on the exact same page on how to shape the finished product. But a hive mind isn’t at all fair to the creative process, as we still can’t leave out any individual’s own resourcefulness and talent. What feels more appropriate is something our own art director Andrew said to me; he referred to the solution as a “vibe mind.” “Vibing” may be a memetic phrase right now, but it describes perfectly the mixing of minds that result in projects like SPICE. Just as mixed-media art can be startling or stunning when it fuses together, layered supergroup projects can give us a rude awakening or a welcome comfort. SPICE does both. — elbee
SPICE (s/t) is available now via Dais Records

gRAHAM pLOWMAN, “pICKMAN’S MODEL”

Way back in the distant year of 2016 I had a story published in the Urban Temples of C’thulhu anthology put out by the First United Church of C’thulhu. It was a funny, spooky little yarn about a dentist whose clientele were all involved with cosmic horror shenanigans. It was the only comedy story in the whole book. The rest were rather faithful to the tone of Lovecraft’s original works.

If the whole “First United Church of C’thulhu” thing was any indication, many people take the subject of H. P. Lovecraft’s work quite seriously. While those that do are often looked upon as creepy–the standard deviation of the status quo–there’s a powerful beauty in the macabre.

Just take a listen to the works of composer Graham Plowman.

Graham Plowman is one of those standard deviation people, using his love of cosmic spookiness to create orchestral music. He has scored several films in the past few years, such as Mark of the Devil, Arthur & Merlin, and An English Haunting. No I haven’t seen them either, which is a shame. I’m sure that they’re quite good, elevated by the quality of the music alone.

But movies aren’t what Plowman seems to be focused on. The horror story of music is what his passion is. He claims to be inspired mainly by the works of H. P. Lovecraft and it defiantly shows. Just look at my favorite arrangement of his: “Pickman’s Model” from the album The Yellow Sign — Orchestral Horror Music.

It’s inspired by the Lovecraft story of the same name. The story revolves around Richard Pickman, a painter from Boston whose horrific works were inspired by real life monsters. Not something you’d want to see hanging in a museum, unless you’re someone like me.

This arrangement is the definition of “mood music,” but instead of making one to want to mash their genitals together or rhythmically move their body around, this one makes the skin prickle with goosebumps.

Have you ever been walking somewhere alone at night? Of course you have, you’re an adult: the hour of the day isn’t going to stop you from going to 7-11 to satisfy your craving for something rolled into a pastry and deep fried. Well, on your way back home, did you ever think that you were watched? I’m not talking about by a person who’d want to rob you of your money or life. That’s so mundane. What I mean is that something you can’t quite… define was watching you. Something malevolent had designs on you, you just know it, be it your body, or mind, or soul.

Some of us like to recreate that feeling between in the safety of our headphones. The low-key, malevolent danger of the unknown can make one feel, by contrast, alive. It’s weird, it’s unusual, it’s the kind of music that those who listen to the top tracks of today would be unsettled by. And that’s just the way we like it. — Carl Jennings