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Tinsel Teeth - Trash as the Trophy

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Artist: Tinsel Teeth

Album: Trash as the Trophy

Label: Load

Review date: Jul. 28, 2010

Tinsel Teeth sound like a bucket of intestines. Stare in to the bucket, and those entrails start to look like they might be the scrapings of a pasta dinner topped with cheez wiz. Or silly string. Something possibly edible, if you’re desperate. Either way, this is rock for those who really like sausages, and don’t mind watching them being made.

Listening to long-players from a band like this is a secondary experience to standing next to the people who can make these red and grey clumps of noise. There are nine songs, but they could be subdivided a few times, ‘cause the moving parts work together only to escalate the chaos.

Tinsel Teeth don’t venture into alien noise as much as some of their Providence brethren. Boiling bass and drums are a recognizable a rhythm section. The guitar spits bits of clean notes between dubious tunings. The vocalist doesn’t front the band as much as perform next to them, talk-growling in the drawl of a TV host for a bass fishing show on basic cable.

At a live Tinsel Teeth gig, you’d get spatters of fake blood, close-up views of the members’ skin art, and a strap-on sausage bouncing between the legs of the master — er, mistress — of ceremonies. There isn’t a syllable on Trash as the Trophy where you’d guess the vocalist is female. Nor is there a syllable that’s decipherable English.

That’s one of the chief benefits of the disc — the lyric sheet. Here they drop clues of the context behind the spectacle. The opener is called “Libraries are the Cemeteries of Ideas.” The lyrics cycle through color words in each line and elliptical images. Not high art, but not so low down, either. Gore-rock like this has to acknowledge that it doesn’t spring from the salty earth of its aspirations. No one here is ever going to host a bass fishing show. Society made them what they are. They’re white suburban punks. And it hurts.

I’d contend that no one has ever figured out the best way to record this kind of music. The credits say “recorded, engineered” rather than “produced.” It’s an article of faith that Steve Albini’s sonically-accurate capture of the Jesus Lizard is the proper approach. No tricks. However, the Butthole Surfer’s late 1980s albums were tangential to the band’s live show, separate productions filled with unintended studio artifacts brought front and center, and dirty jokes and tape cut-ups that were unperformable. The albums created a parallel document to the surgery films, topless bearded dancers and swamp boogie emerging from the smoke machine cloud. Black metal bands strive for the same density as a band like Tinsel Teeth, and it’s a common practice to cut-and-paste in extra kick drums in post-production. It drains some of the humanity off.

Somewhere in between all that, there’s a sweet spot that could make this tangle come out of the speakers with all the force it desires. There will be a trophy for the band that figures it out, filled to the brim with bodily fluids.

By Ben Donnelly

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