Album Review

Album Review: Black Midi’s Schlagenheim

todayJuly 11, 2022 199 8 4

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Gilian Prado

Music Journalist

 

Artist: Black Midi

Album: Schlagenheim

Release Date: June 19, 2019

Record Label: Rough Trade Records

Black Midi popped up on the scene in 2019 and introduced a new generation to noise rock, including myself. Black Midi, if they must be categorized, would fall under the category of noise rock; also known as noise punk is a genre of music that is derived from 80s-style punk rock and is a facet of experimental rock. 

 953

953 is the first track off the album, with its quick-paced start and a drone of guitar distortion, and violent upheaval of drums it definitely catches the attention of any listener. It’s rock and roll but in its most chaotic state is what came to mind when I first heard this track. The song then lulls into single guitar plucking strings and softened drums. Finally, a voice is revealed, and I can only describe it as a fantastical Pink Floyd. In a split second the tempo reverts to its original fast-paced demeanor. Lyrically Greep (Black Midi front man) is talking either to himself or another, he expresses his disappointment in himself or someone else’s mind operates, stating,

“Not who I want you to be

You were once so kind

Please remove these thoughts

Remove them from your mind

For they are a disgrace”

This strong emotion and thoughts bother him so much to the point he must take action, but it ends up being an empty promise, The song ends with either Greep or the person he was talking to giving into it

“Everyone joins in

And it is condemned

It is a sin, it is a sin”

Speedway

Contrary to what the name of the second song might suggest, this is one of the calmer songs on the album. Speedway is very minimalistic, it starts off with a single chord being strummed, soft drums, and soft vocals. In the song, Greep is commenting on gentrification. The song is soft to signify how gentrification slowly and sneakily replaces an old city.

Reggae

The beginning of the song lives up to its name with a subtle groovy guitar riff. Midway through the song the tempo picks up and in the underlayer what sounds like dissonant chords on the piano being played furiously can be heard, I personally loved the addition it created more texture to the sound and overall added to the intensity. The song itself talks about the challenge it is to keep your life in order and how one’s self-esteem seems to be so easily challenged by a person with their life together. He makes it a point to say how this person does things he can’t do and compares the state of each other’s shoes saying that the person he admires has “fine leather shoes” while his shoes have “the rotting flesh of a mange”

Near DT, MI

This is my favorite track off the album. With a fast-paced opening with chaotic and clashing guitar sounds it quickly revs one up, then it slowly comes back down. The lyrics are the real focus of this song, and as you guessed it, Near DT, MI means near Detroit Michigan. The lyrics speak for themselves.

“The water is foul and it’s hard to breathe

There’s lead in the water, there’s lead in the water

There’s lead in the water, and you think that I’m fine

I’m stained by the water and only the water

I’m drained by the water, are you losing your mind?

Dead in the water, dead in the water”

The song is an obvious commentary on the water crisis in near Detroit in Flint, Michigan. By the second half of the song an explosion occurs and it’s the first time we really hear Greep yell, and not only are all of the other instruments going crazy but the synthesizers seem to have an angsty urgency as well which is really interesting to hear.

Western 

Western is a ballad-like song that speaks of betrayal of what is presumed to be a fellow musician in the music industry.

“After all the pretty things you’d done for me

I left you in a ditch”

Of Schlagenheim

Of Schlagenheim is a unique track on this album and the only way it can be described is as a noise rock gothic new wave fusion and I love it. The synths and guitar swing on the pendulum of moody new wave and hardcore noise rock. The lyrics read like a fever dream as I try to make sense of it. I admire it when artists write cryptic lyrics, it gives me a challenge to analyze.

Bmbmbm.

This track has one of my favorite openers, featuring a nuclear alarm sound. Bmbmbm is also one of my favorite tracks off the album. It also has a slow tempo throughout but a dominant and hard-hitting guitar and drum sound, throughout. Greep repeats the lyrics of how “ she moves with a purpose.” The really interesting part of the song is the tempo change in the second half, much like the intro hinted it turns into a nuclear explosion of the destruction of layers and every single instrument playing as hard and loud as they can, this was absolutely intoxicating to hear and one of the high points of the albums.

Years Ago

This song, like its predecessor, is also a whirlwind of chaos, and vaguely reminiscent of the band The garden. Lyrically though it is more similar to “Of Schlagenheim” with violent surrealistic lyrics:

“Years ago they tried to throw me in a payphone

All I made was a penny and a black eye

A pen and a black swan came and took away”

“Years ago they tried to cut me with a chainsaw

All I had was pen and a crayon

I drowned my own son in a cold river

Jammed my head in a generator”

Ducter

Ducter is a song of persistence with the length to match (6:41). Ducter talks about how Greep had someone conspire against him yet Greep will not succumb to them. Musically it really takes a turn in the second half sounding like a dismal and intense movie score and ends with a final build up point of incoherent vocals and instruments playing over each other in a cacophony manner.

The album is one of the greater noise rock albums of this time. It makes use of frequent dynamic changes which helps prevent stagnation, a common issue in other noise rock groups. It also boasts a great number of technically challenging guitar and drum parts, showcasing the band’s technical musical talent. The lyrics are cryptic in such a way that it stays in your head, and you can’t help but want to analyze and reach out to ask what they meant. The band is one that when listening to the sound coax’s out the inner mosher inside everyone.

Image credit: Black Midi

Written by: Jordan Young

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