Black Square (10.09, Impose/Deleted Art)
What’s the point? A post-Cold War nihilism has infected the mainframe. Without a fatalism to lash out against, our lives seem pretty pointless. Even the singer in your band is straining to hide the fact that all this bores the hell out of him. We need something immediate to fight against. Something more ominous than the slow death of global warming, depleting resources, the wretched poverty of elsewhere lapping up on our shores. Then we could dance. We could dance all night because tomorrow might be the day when the men in starched white shirts and sensible ties will push that red button. Or maybe there is no button. Maybe just a sorrowful word spoken through the scratchy radio static. Either way, we could really cut a rug. We could rage all night and really mean it.
Listening to Black Square by Canadian post-punk outfit DD/MM/YYYY is a thematic epilogue to Sidney Lumet’s Failsafe. The Cold War ended and this is how we thank you, with an utter disregard for your Ptolemaic sense of universal order, of opposing forces with good and evil. Black Square is a dance party with no backbeat, no courtship ritual, no schmoozing, no trips to the bathroom with your dealer boyfriend. Just pure cathartic flailing of appendages and time signatures; so chaotic we forget about nice logical ideas such as mutual assured destruction and strategic stockpiling of leaky uranium barrels.
Picking up where the Blood Brothers left off, DD/MM/YYYY begins with the strongest track on the album “Bronzage.” Blasting through each time signature and staccato tag-team vocals, apocalyptic blasts of feedback-drenched squalor combine with a whole keyboard cache of effects piled on top. This is a summons, a séance, a retro throwback to a time when imminent death made people feel alive. The crass commercialism of the 80’s, the excess of Studio 54, the mutual apathy of the nineties, your old Nintendo and all the times when people just wanted to forget, are thrown in a blender and randomized through a computer. The output is “Uh, oh, uh, oh nothing matters!” shouted in gang unison by some misfit kids from Toronto.
The album centerpiece “Infinity Skull Cube” features classic start-stop post-punk of This Heat or The Fall married with an almost uncanny Fugazi-like shouted chorus. And all this sans a single power chord. The weaving of guitar lines and outer-space synth coupled with unbelievably complex time changes can be a death wound to a band whose music exists as an interesting exercise but has no soul. Black Square is the exact opposite, with tracks such as “Infinity Skull Cube” expelling their wide-eyed epithets of vocal and instrumental barbs like projectile missiles, exploding so powerfully in your psyche that you are forced to stop what you are doing. DD/MM/YYYY are not bereft of irresistible hooks or missionary-like zeal.
DD/MM/YYYY provide a few respites on the way. The instrumental exploration on “Birdtown” has a jazzy swing that recalls early fellow Canadian citizens Do Make Say Think. The slow burn of “They” feels a little misplaced, coming early in the album and conceding to the lengthy “Birdtown” as the middle of the album slow-jam interlude. The album ends as strong as it starts, finishing with some of the catchiest songs on the album, including “I’m Still in the Wall” and “Digital Haircut.”
I’m not sure why Black Square elicits such intense emotions. Perhaps listening to something as structured as a dance song—with its assured peaks and valleys and verse chorus arrangements—completely dismantled, blown up with a mega-ton bomb, and then reassembled by a barbarian society is so liberating, so against the cold logic of a world seemed bent on destroying itself. Dance punk for world peace!