Willie Reviews Boris’ “LφVE & EVφL”

Willie Reviews Boris’ “LφVE & EVφL”


Boris is not going anywhere! The Japanese rock trio has stayed together to make another record for us called LφVE & EVφL which grinds, groans, and wails ever so politely. Here’s RPM’s LφVEly review:

Boris appreciates all the subtleties of life—the sounds people make when they talk, leaves rustling, other ear filler—but they wisely recognize that all those weaker subtleties must die when confronted with a very good guitar solo. And that is switched-on, powered-up subtlety. You can bend and not break, says Boris. This observation has allowed them a lengthy career doing the kind of noisy music-making they do best. Made up of trio Atsuo, Takeshi, and Wata, the band gives us their 24th studio album with LφVE & EVφL. At the same time, they’ve reissued classic records Akuma no Uta and Feedbacker. LφVE & EVφL is not either of these, and it places agitation secondary to contemplation and Heavy Thought.

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Still, the best definition for Boris is as unpretentious lovers (worshippers, maybe?) of the guitar and everything you can do with it. In this way, they set themselves apart from the single-genre, single-issue bands that commit to soul-wrenching shoegaze or quaking drone. Most everything in the band’s music stems from a genuine and heartwarming love for an instrument they wrangle joyfully. The cover of LφVE & EVφL places animal by guitar pedal and plant by guitar cable in a collage of what might be called neo-rustic dishware prints. The stamped-out emblems read as a friendship between their more traditional muses and their faithful machine companions, which pump out decibels cleanly and on command. The first track, “Away from you,” demonstrates this careful balance. After they establish a rolling bass lick in a floating bed of drums and quiet voice, of course the urge rises to perform a guitar solo. As we hear the words “away from you,” the guitar starts to tremolo ecstatically, but is still tucked away into the dreamy background of the track. Of course it’s very cool and we all love it, but it’s the kind of solo that went to manners school and learned from its older cousins not to get too hot. Collectively, they are incapable of affecting cool and simply radiate it. You don’t (or shouldn’t) become experimental icons through stilted posturing. Ideally, you fall into it.

At the heart of their appeal both in guitar and voice is their unique lyricism, that great intangible which still seems to mean something. In the broad sense, they sound rough and reflective, unafraid of making a misstep. For my band and your band, this is definitely “not good” (please think before you act), but Boris knows their sound and summon it quietly. Think about it this way: the lyric poets went wrong when they added decay to their words in the form of intelligible sentences. Try amping up this Sappho line with a pedal: “Like the sweet apple which reddens upon the topmost bough.” It becomes “Liiiiiiswaaweough… (reverb, reverb, reverb).” In much the same way, the melody on “Coma” sings through the depths in great distress. As the guitar sinks, it duets with a drone that never settles. The drone seethes, advances, and recoils all to fight against its moving antagonist (or protagonist, depending on your reading). The more the two grate against one another, the more the phrases become impossible to parse. What is one ascending sequence against a solid wall of drone? It’s an engrossing fight that lacks a winner and circles back to where it began.

Boris “LOVE” (Offical Video)

“EVOL,” which follows “Coma,” promises something of a fright: the horrid underside of love, whatever that may be. But it’s lovely instead. Both that and “LOVE” form the two thematic pillars of the record, and their often opposite sentiments invigorate the hungry Boris fan. The ways to manipulate a lick are endless, and every way they reinterpret a screeching banner of a guitar solo satisfies nicely. But Boris, for all the fun they have, never lets it get “away from you” these days. They aren’t experimental in the sense that they throw you out in the unfamiliar depths. Instead, their leaps are calculated, always listenable, and traversable. You’re not listening to Flood or The Thing Which Solomon Overlooked. And if somebody tells you that Boris is self-satisfied, it’s probably because they are. Aren’t you? As long as their accelerating and braking impulses hold each other in check, we are bound for a late career Boris which nourishes and can’t possibly tire itself out.

Score: Like shooting off a ⅓ scale moon rocket and letting it fall back to earth right on your stupid, grinning face.