Live: Fuck Buttons Go Punk Rock at the Bowery Ballroom
Fuck Buttons get their Fischer Price on. All photos by Kate Glicksberg
Monday, November 2
When Animal Collective played a crammed, 16-years-old-and-up show for fans and industry-fucks at the Bowery Ballroom in January, I chanced to meet a chubby 17-year-old from Westchester named "Sean," who asked me to buy beer for him. "Sean" wore a Fuck Buttons t-shirt, and some sky-blue Indian feathers around his neck. He struck me as the kind of kid who would probably have asked me for doses if he a) knew the form that LSD comes in, and b) courageously intuited more about the guy already enabling his underage consumption. His FB t-shirt was an invaluable part of the teen rebellion garb, more badge than endorsement, like the way St. Mark's skinheads rock Subhumans gear. But a pose can also be a valuable gateway drug.
Fuck Buttons played a far less crammed--though nonetheless well-attended--75 minutes at Bowery on Monday night. No poses here--howling recognitions greeted the distorted tonalities with which Andrew Hung and Ben Power cued their next slabs of rhythmic noise. Other blessings manifested themselves as physical movements, precipitated by layers of grey static, Game-Boy FX, strobing modulators, and kick-drum that coalesced into the duo's version of nirvana. On the floor, the crowd's mass 130bpm head-nod transformed into what from the balcony looked like hyperactive swells. When these took hold (I'm thinking of the endlessly overflowing opener, "Surf Solar"), Fuck Buttons invited favorable visions of the demi-Gods of Bore, the industrial psychedelic techno mandala's completion loomed, and "Sean's" moment of young hip fashion was like the premonition of a noise yogi in training. If only such a blissful state was permanently achievable.
Alas! What the group's new, Andrew Weatherall-produced Tarot Sport expertly conceals, using a sheen that Mr. Swordsman has spent two decades constructing in service of Northern rockers looking to groove, is that Fuck Buttons are more punk than techno. Regardless of tools of their trade. Fine, but...it's just that a punk's idea of fun is screaming a single "no," as opposed to figuring out how many kinds of "yes" can be discovered "on the one." So too, Andrew and Ben. For every Bowery moment in which they slaughtered non-believers with their kick, half a dozen saw them twiddling distortions on Fischer Price microphones. You could call it limiting - or disappointing. It was once great to know that such a thing as Fuck Buttons simply exists - for folks like "Sean," it still is. But once the pose establishes depth, it's got to move or die.