And now for a new installment of Sucks vs. Rules. First up:
Houston’s Erika Thrasher and Tex Kerschen are Indian Jewelry, and Totaled is their fourth album, third on We Are Free/Monitor. They’ve piled decades of lo-fi noise, outer-urban skronk, subterranean dirt-rock and drugged-out psychosis into a language only they completely understand. Some of it works okay, in short spurts and small-ish doses, and some of it just feels a wee bit clumsy and, maybe, heavy-handed. Although it’s necessary to point out that part of that reality is the result of the purposefully hyperbolic, experimental action involved in playing completely free and loose. When your mode is one of constantly tearing shit up where do you go from there?
As a cross-gendered noise-duo they do bring to mind the original Royal Trux, circa Twin Infinitives, but as far as superfreaks go they are obviously not in the same league as Neil and Jennifer. (Who is?) “Excessive Moonlight” is uneasy and floaty, with effectively ethereal and semi-creeped out vocals. “Simulation” is like a spookier, sluggish Raveonettes. And “Vision” is Chrome-like in its short-circuited and fractured framework. On the other hand, “Tono Bungay” is way too cute-electronic, something akin to what would be the questionable pairing of Alan Parsons and Gary Numan.
To be honest, the entire latter half of the album eventually dissolves into something that is far mushier and much less defined or interesting than the first half of the album. The songs dissolve into what amounts to a powerstand. The wheels are smokin’ like crazy, but they’re not going anywhere. In the end, it just fizzles out. Either they ran out of decent songs, or they chose to let the whole thing disintegrate into itself, kind of like the bad end of a good drug ride. Bummer. –Anthony Mark Happel
Indian Jewelry has kept me wondering for a few years now, but it's only with their latest offering, Totaled, that I'm beginning to see everything more clearly.
The Houston “group” (a term I use loosely because the core is a duo with a revolving cast of other weirdos helping out) has toed the line of sonic terror art school fuckery to the soundtrack to lonesome drives down Texas highways, but brings it all together on this album.
Opening track “Oceans” is something akin to the detached synth-cool of early Human League or Chris & Cosey — the latter not surprising, as I've used Throbbing Gristle as a comparison to Indian Jewelry a few times. This all makes perfect sense as the album continues down that path, hinting at Sonic Youth's “Whitey Album”, the awesome idea of Kraftwerk covering Gun Club, and/or Royal Trux jamming in a dystopian future, making use of the electronics they've picked out of the rubble.
When I finish listening to a new Indian Jewelry album, I get this strange feeling of dread. I'm always impressed by what I hear, but I find myself doubting that they can keep holding my attention release after release. After the 40 minutes of Totaled, I'm finally ready to admit that it's my own pessimistic nature that keeps me from admitting that this is the work of more than just les Enfant terribles from below the Mason-Dixon line; it's some of the best shit out there. –Jason Diamond