#21: Plebeian Grandstand - 'False Highs, True Lows'
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Plebeian Grandstand (link goes to their website) perhaps matched the true tone of 2016 more than any other band did in what was to be quite a rough year for the public eye. The election year was exceptionally brutal, with 2 candidates that the country absolutely hated and a third with a fiery "for the people" message that was in effect disallowed to run because, well, we now live in a plutocracy, or under oligarchy, because Glass-Stegall was repealed, because of the Patriot Act, and mostly because of Citizen's United, among other things. And of course the celebrity death toll was legendary, with Carrie Fisher, Leonard Cohen, David Bowie, (The Artist Formerly Known As) Prince, Merle Haggard, Debbie Reynolds, Gary Shandling, and so many more beloved entertainers passing on out of this realm.
Then came Donald Trump, both a celebrity older than most of those more popular celebrities, and far, far more hated than the ones dying off. Order has began to crumble, it would seem. Or at the very least, things are far more unpredictable and have troubling undercurrents to them. Anyway, Donnie Tinyhands is the ultimate Pleb and is most definitely a Grandstander.
This is about music damn it! 'False Highs and True Lows' was the soundtrack to 2016, so many expectations, so many let downs. So many heroes dying off. The relentless drumming of Plebeian Grandstand is what sticks out, and it has grown to dizzying heights on this release. But the maelstrom surrounding the beat is also nothing less than breathtaking.
The drum performance by Ivo Kaltchev heard on this release is one of the most intense sounding and yet precise things I have ever listened to, right up there with Gigan's drummer Nate Cotton, which is nothing less than mindboggling (seen it live, guys). There are quiet times as well, when the guitars drone and make sad melodies while the drums sit and wait. It is all pretty formulaic and each song is a result of their methodology, but the overall effect is memorable in an abstract forceful way, of being overcome by some of the most overwhelming drumming and the most darkly entrancing guitars with at times recognizable screaming. It is also still pretty unpredictable despite its construction.
There is nothing too deep or spiritually moving about this band, but they try at times. It gives a nice contrast to the extreme metal experience that they deliver with precise execution. Each moment feels plotted out and pre-meditated. It is not an easy listen but still captivating nonetheless, like much of new groundbreaking western music. It features much contrast between slowness vs hyperspeed, contemplative vs forceful kinetics, dull vs loud, but it is overall dark with not many rays of sunlight breaking through its obsidian density of sound.
This is no pick-me-up listen, rather a get-me-through-some-shit experience. Like how driving on a day you don't want to be out and about needs a soundtrack, going to the gym, or plowing through a pile of work. It is a droning, hyperactive beast that needs moments to recharge its onslaught so that you can feel its weight. It also seems to get better and better as it goes, with perhaps its best track "Eros Culture" reserved for the finale. 'False Highs, True Lows' is a study in dissonance and rapidity, yet laser focused in cutting apart its own sound. The drums slice and dice the guitars into even smaller shapes while a nihilist wails over the insane dissection.
As far as the band themselves, they are another 4 frenchmen making black metal-ish music. There is a super rad music scene in France hatching out many superb black metal and experimental rock bands for years now. This is Plebeian Grandstand's sophomore effort, which rather than slumping, perfected the band's sound and bested the prototype version. Now that they have reached the heights of their design, perhaps it is time for them to soar. Can't wait to hear what they do next.