DAILY RECORD: Double Negative

Posted by: Necci – Aug 25, 2010


Double Negative - Daydream Nation (Sorry State)

The members of Double Negative had to realize that naming their newest album after Sonic Youth’s 1988 opus would turn a few heads, and that the name would be a considerable sticking point in a good number of reviews. Perhaps the choice of name was simply an attention-grabbing move, but it is appropriate in many ways. The Sonic Youth album from which Double Negative borrowed the name, the band’s last before signing to a major label and moving on to the canonization of rock history and a million Rolling Stone best-of lists, was a fierce tribute to dissonance, and one of their most sweeping catalogues of subversive influences. These two facets are certainly mirrored by Double Negative’s most recent effort, a gnarled clash of sounds which, while retaining certain recognizable reference points, pulls the rug out from underneath punk rock clichés and offers a bracing, frenetic batch of songs--a breath of fresh air in a genre so muddled with stilted rehashes.

Which is not to say that Double Negative’s music is without precedent. There are echoes of Bl’ast, most notably the manner in which that band took the sour discordance of later Black Flag and boosted the tempo, resulting in a frenzied rush which would have been a sloppy mess had the band been any less proficient as musicians. There’s a strong Void influence as well, and Double Negative have mirrored that band’s ability to sound less like a collaborative unit than a combination of disconnected instrumental bursts slamming against one another, inexplicably making cohesive and memorable songs. However, Double Negative displays an adeptness with melody that neither of those bands ever quite mastered. Songs like “Super Recourse” have a subtle way of incorporating slight vocal melodies into their maelstrom, adding depth to the song without compromising viciousness. On the other hand, songs like “Knife On A String” move the band’s dissonant edge front and center, taking the most wrong-sounding notes and making them right again through their sly placement in some of the album’s most charged moments.

Lyrically, it’s difficult to tell where the band is coming from. To refer to the album as cryptic is something of an understatement. Eerie, disconnected images and phrases seem to hover around some nucleus of an idea in each song, with paranoia, alienation, and disillusionment all getting their due. It’s hard to even cite any specific song or individual line which exemplifies their approach, as all of it seems equally disorienting. The song “Voice Recognition,” however, is adapted from seventeenth century poet Henry Vaughan, suggesting more of a method to their madness than might be readily obvious from a quick glance at the insert.

It is exactly this approach that makes Double Negative compelling. A first impression of the band would likely focus on the crazed discordance of the music and the seemingly impenetrable lyrical approach, but repeated listens reveal melodies, structures, and images which emerge from the abrasive presentation like shadows at twilight, revealing a band at the peak of their powers who can craft dissonance into something quite harmonious.

Words By Graham Scala Live Photos By Tony Lynch