Day 5F: Rubber City Noise, Round Two
We’re into the final bracket of the entire competition, and we have twenty-four minutes left to kill from a current running time of 103:51. That basically means no one is safe… especially not in the following four unbearably painful matchups:
#1 Racermason, “Liar’s Life” (4:37)
#9 Tearoom Trade, “Bathhouse” (5:14)
When I looked at the redraw and saw the six #1 seeds, I figured there were two that had a chance of falling if this competition went on far enough. One of those has made it through. The other is “Liar’s Life”. (The one that actually did go down I thought was sacrosanct, more fool me.) I figured that in order for that to happen, it would have to come up with something that has personal significance to me (as opposed to something that is still in the competition simply because I love it that much), something in a radically different musical genre, and something shorter than it. “Bathhouse” manages about one and a half of the three. (A bathhouse, after all, is not a tearoom.) Still, this ended up being a tough, tough call, and I went both ways on it, no pun intended, for quite a while before handing it to Racermason. For me, the deciding factor was vocal intelligibility in this case. To be fair, the vocals in “Liar’s Life” are pretty damn hard to puzzle out, but not nearly as bad as those in “Bathhouse.” Racermason takes this one in a squeaker. Total running time: 98:37.
#5 The Legendary Pink Dots, “Ghost” (3:46)
#13 Sieben, “Factory Floor” (3:47)
“Factory Floor” is another of those tracks that has consistently surprised me over the course of this competition; the toughest battle it faced throughout the entire series was its first, and it has grown stronger and stronger in my estimation as the months have worn on, taking out song after song I would have, on selection day, given it no chance to conquer, culminating in a huge upset of Steel Hook Prostheses last time out. Here, though, Matt Howden’s beautiful folk outfit has come up against something that is simply too big for it to handle. “Ghost” and “Factory Floor” spring from the same post-industrial goth well, when it comes right down to it, and the Dots have been doing this for a long, long time—long enough to have perfected the trade, pushed all the envelopes that Howden is still experimenting with and found their best boundaries, and then made music in that space that is unequalled by anything else around it. There is no stopping “Ghost”. Total running time: 94:50.
#3 Jack Smiley, “Arabesque” (2:49)
#6 Waterglass, “Sleep (Song of Oberon)” (4:37)
I wish I could say that the only place where one would be forced to make a choice between two songs this good was in some twisted parallel universe with sentient, and very cruel, random number generators who are out to cause as much pain and misery in the world as possible. Unfortunately, forces have engineered such a matchup in the real world as well. “Arabesque” and “Sleep” are both eminently deserving of places in the final mix, and so I’m going to take the wimp’s way out and go with the time factor alone here; Waterglass are sent to the bleachers, and Jack Smiley into the finals. Total running time: 90:13.
#7 Rie Fu, “Tsuki Akari” (4:31)
#2 Plague Mother, “Obsession Part 1” (4:58)
…and if you thought that last one was awful, well shit pardner, that was the frying pan. Here we have a total difference of twenty-seven seconds in duration between two of my favorite songs in the entire universe, which pretty much negates the time factor. I’m really kind of wishing I had thrown over my initial idea that Plague Mother had no chance of losing here and had simply made “Obsessions Part 1” the #1 seed in this division. (Honestly, I don’t think if “Tsuki Akari” were going up against “Liar’s Life”, it would even be a contest.) “Obsessions Part 1” is hands down the harshest piece of work left in this competition; I’d say it’s one of the five harshest pieces of work in my entire musical collection (none of the rest made it because all of them are well over ten minutes long.) “Tsuki Akari” is arguably the most beautiful. In a day of matchups in which every one was painful, and which ended up taking me almost six weeks to write a grand total of forty-eight paragraphs, the RNG saved the most difficult matchup for last. The idea of never hearing either one of these tracks again makes me very glad this is an academic exercise (though I do plan to see how long I can keep going with nothing but the final eighty-minute mix in my car before I realize how much I’ve just turned myself into a private-brand ClearChannel and fill my mp3 player up again). Ultimately, I was forced to go with a meta approach: I went back and looked at every matchup in this bracket in which a noise/PE track had gone up against a non-noise/PE track. That happened eight times, and I went with the noise track in five of those matchups—which suggests that noise has taken a pretty solid lead, and traditional music is falling behind in the representation…and it seems like every upset in this competition, from The Conet Project unseating the Ramones all the way back on Day 1B until now, seems like the biggest upset we’ve seen. But I’m not sure they can get any bigger than this—Plague Mother heads for the bleachers, and Rie Fu continues on. Total running time: 85:15.
And with that, the brackets come to a close, and the following four songs—two of which I can’t quite believe are still here—have made it through to face the RNG one more time…
Rie Fu, “Tsuki Akari”
The Legendary Pink Dots, “Ghost”
Racermason, “Liar’s Life”
Jack Smiley, “Arabesque”