Sadly, I’ve never seen Lightning Bolt live, despite the number of times it’s been recommended to me. It’s a bona fide regret, and yet I’m equally a tiny bit afraid of the possibility of doing so. After all, there’s so much physicality involved with Brian Chippendale’s drumming that I assume his body looks like a combination of Michael Phelps, Bradley Wiggins, Adebayo Akinfenwa and Andre The Giant, which would put my fragile, consumptive frame to shame. I don’t need to be confronted with a modern-day Atlas to feel bad about myself, and I’m worried that Chippendale will only, with every roll and polyrhythm, psychologically enhance my moobs and underline my gut. Even knowing that Black Pus is a solo project does not calm my trepidation as I set about preparing for this review. I know for a fact that every inch of this album is going to scream sinews and muscles at me, and that therefore I’m going to have to balance admiration and musical critiques with a certain sense of personal inadequacy.
I am sure that there are many people who would assume that Brian Chippendale flying solo would be an excuse to change tack and forgo the molten noise-fuck bludgeoning that has made Lightning Bolt so popular among the more masochistic ATP-goers. It’s almost as if one expects a bit of restraint when hitting play on All My Relations, an expectation of quietude. Will Chippendale show some restraint now that Brian Gibson is absent? Will he fuck! ‘Marauder’ barks and bellows its way out of the speakers in a hurricane of tom-belting and cymbal fuckery, and All My Relations doesn’t let up from there on in. If you’re hoping for subtlety and intricacy, you’ve come to the wrong place. The only counterpoint to the stream of crashing cymbals and pounded skins is a crude oscillator that Chippendale apparently activates directly from his kit and which serves to mimic Gibson’s shuddering bass lines in Lightning Bolt, only with less control over where they fly. This is noise rock at its most animalistic: punkish rhythms allied to untamed sweeps and swoops of brutal electro-racket.
And yet, and yet… Somehow, despite giving himself little room to manoeuvre, Chippendale manages to showcase a certain knack for songwriting on All My Relations. ‘Fly on the Wall’, for example, may be based on a steamrolling, minimal (albeit played at maximum volume) beat that swamps the speakers, but scratch at the surface and hidden layers of an almost pop-like sensitivity reveal themselves, even as the oscillator chugs up and down like a rogue lawnmower. ‘1,000 Years’ is perhaps the album’s most restrained track (that’s not saying much) with a loping back beat and jaunty cymbals over a slippery bass oscillator see-saw. It may be brutalist, but snaking its way through the rumpus is a melodic hook not unlike the sort of surf-punk catchiness of The Ramones or the Californian hardcore bands. At one point on the seven-minute romp that is ‘Word on the Street’, Chippendale stops his drumming altogether to ululate like a reindeer looking for a mate. He may be singing with a microphone jammed in his mouth, but there’s something of the snotty teenage punk-rocker about Brian Chippendale.
At other times, it’s nice to just sit back and take in the noise, as you would with Lightning Bolt. In fact, with his voice mixed well down to the point of being unintelligible and the oscillator mostly just aping an amped-up bass guitar (except most notably when Chippendale kicks it into high-pitched overdrive on ‘All Out Of Sorts’, another punk-thrash gurgler that descends into freeform mayhem), there isn’t much to differentiate All My Relations from any Lightning Bolt album. Which returns me to my initial thought, which is that this is a guy worth witnessing live, regardless of the incarnation. Brian Chippendale is a ball of energy, with some decent tunes lurking underneath his permanently-flexed abs. Live, this must be killer. On record, it’s certainly a jolt, and not just a pile of drum-driven aural overload, but something does get lost in the process.