Musical revisionism is a tricky thing. If you become too ensconced within your influences, it can be perceived as over reliance on established sounds and genres, but if you stray too far…well, it’s not really revisionism, is it? It’s a fine line to walk in creating something new and unique while paying overt homage to a particular set of musical guidelines and textures (or artists for that matter). Leeds-based alternative rock duo Distortion Mirrors (aka Luke Worle and Josiah Brooks) make music that adheres closely to the grungy, industrial sound of 90’s bands like The Smashing Pumpkins and Nine Inch Nails, while still making room for more pop-inflected influences such as Weezer and Peter Gabriel. And it’s in this narrow balance between the grunge and pop aesthetics that the band strikes the proper notes connecting homage and imitation. They concoct a dense, viscous amalgamation of their influences and let the sounds bounce off one another in a spiraling display of studio wizardry.
Recently, the band sat down with Beats Per Minute to talk about a few of the records which have helped to shape the sound of their latest record, Zeros and Kings – not to mention their own formative musical upbringing. Their inclusion of albums from Peter Gabriel and Keith Green are evidence of their outsider pop inclinations, while albums from The White Stripes and The Smashing Pumpkins highlight their need for volume and ferocity. Also included are LP’s from Portishead and Wolfmother – further linking their experimental side with their yearning for straight-up rock. Whether dealing out sound and fury or chugging pop melodicism, Distortion Mirrors are continually maintaining that delicate musical balance and shredding a few eardrums in the process. Check out the band’s full list below in the latest installment of our On Deck series.
I literally begged my mother to buy this for me at a discount superstore when I was 15 years old and this is the record that changed my life and the first rock album I ever bought. I was enchanted, intrigued and altogether blown away by the emotional extremes and different sonic temperatures that this beast has. Some people, purists maybe, dismiss and knock this album as their sell-out album, but for me, this is Billy’s peak. The production is glorious and of course with Flood and Alan Moulder, you’ve got the dream team that could make even a mediocre band sound good. Not every song works. Some fall flat or sound way out of context, but that’s why this imperfect record is still so inherently perfect. This is Billy Corgan’s audio diary and you get to hear everything from the fragile, tender lullabies, like the most beautiful song on the record “Stumbleine” to the darkly nihilistic “Tales of a Scorched Earth”. You’ve got the obvious hits, some of them novel, maybe one or two stock singles for Virgin Records, but you also have the most utterly compelling mid 90’s Alternative Rock that was giving a voice to those knee deep in their own growing pains and confused adolescent hearts. When Billy says “If you’re giving in, then you’re giving up” it was a call to arms to find a way out of the labyrinth where light and darkness, love and hate coexist. That’s what life is anyway. Agony and ecstasy. The themes are woven in such an emotionally complex way that it really was the soundtrack to my teenage suffering, bad hair days and not getting asked out to the prom. Basically it was the soundtrack to my life at 15. Kids need music they can draw strength and catharsis from. Bush and the Nirvana clones weren’t doing any of that in the demise of the great Nirvana. Billy provided what we needed, and filled in the gaps with this dark, but ultimately redemptive record. A stellar double album that pretty much no one has managed to match.
The post rock crop of bands in NYC was my first look at what a phenomenon was since I was in diapers when grunge was around. You had all these spotty to great bands sporting the ‘The’ in their names and while some of it was gimmicky, The White Stripes were the best and brightest of them all. 2 people making a cavernous blues rock racket that nobody has done as well since Zeppelin. I chose Elephant because its where they perfected their art-rock bombast and solid chops. Plus you’ve got the underlying cool factor of recording this album purely analog. Not many bands in their position might have taken a risk like that, let alone cut such a great record in 2 weeks. Jack is incredible, man. He IS an instrument, vocally, tonally matching the peaks of the best and brightest out there. Jack White made me realize that getting to the roots of rock and roll was much cooler then trying to sound like Wire or Joy Division just because it was cool. Those bands are great, but Elephant reminds us how primal rock and roll is music in it’s purest form. A right on record that never fails to show millions of bands how near impossible it is to be so flawlessly talented. Jack White makes it all seem so easy that it’s borderline depressing. Scientists should study his DNA.
This record is the quintessential art rock pop record. I don’t care if it’s considered cool in indie circles just because my parents both own copies on tape cassette.The moment I heard this record, just out of high school, production to me proved not to be just a science, but a genuine art. Daniel Lanois is as equally brilliant as Peter Gabriel, crafting emotion, grooming atmosphere into this majestic tapestry where you sit back dumbstruck that a man that used to wear blue face paint and dress up as an over-sized flower could sound so universally normal and empathetic. Tracks like the harrowing “We Do What We’re Told” give darkness a brittle edge where you realize this record is looking into the abyss of human experience. It’s counterbalanced by the hope of “Don’t Give Up” which is hands down the most powerful anti-suicide song for me. You’ve got the obvious 1980’s staple rock hits like “Sledgehammer” and of course Peter had to pay the bills, so all is forgiven. But this record illuminated for me that production needn’t be sterile and bereft of tension and creative atmosphere, while also emphasizing that a man that once dressed as a flower, could be one of the most profound spokespersons in all of rock and roll. Peter Gabriel is an absolute genius.
OK so it’s fair to say I might get cool points deducted for loving this record. But I’m OK with that. This record is criminally underrated probably because it sounds like it just came off the assembly line of a freshly pressed vinyl circa 1971. But talent is talent. The fact that its all very similar sounding in one sitting or like the new brood of Zeppelin doesn’t bother me. It still makes a statement. Andrew Stockdale’s skill is still finding a way to not go for the whole cock-rock posturing thing, but to give it class and up the ante. It’s a bit more on the cerebral edge of things, which is why I love it. The skill presses through the barrier of another basic rock set-up of drums, bass, guitars and vocals. The sounds rip off Sabbath and that’s OK. They rip off Zeppelin and that’s also OK. Why? Because when you hear it, it tears your face off and makes you want to get an Orange Amp and a Fender and wholeheartedly let the fuzz transport you back to 1967 or whenever.
This record is just as important, if not more, than any other record I’ve ever heard. I was brought up in an evangelical household and was alienated by a lot of preachy injustices I saw, to myself included. I’ve always heard that Christ is love, yet never really felt or understand that until recent. This record showed me that I was looking into a mirror. This guy Keith Green used drugs, transcendental meditation, free love and more drugs to find inner peace and came up empty. When I heard this record, I could sense a dialogue to God. This guy was searching for the great answers in life, asking the challenging questions as well and finding the answers. Most Contemporary Christian music has become a stale facade to push units and groom artists to sound copped off from what’s selling in the ‘secular’ arena. Art has taken a significant backseat. This record showed me that art and spirituality can be coupled into a compelling non-preachy package with genuine conviction that highlights the importance of each. As a believer, this is a Christian record I can suggest to anyone without cringing. I mean, even Bob Dylan is a big fan of this record and was friends with Keith Green. Who can argue with Bob Dylan, man?
Luke and Josiah:
Sure it’s a bit recent to tell how long lasting it’s newly minted legacy will be, but this is the lost Radiohead album, so to speak. They even cover “The Rip” with a simple guitar and it can reduce us to tears. The stuttering triggered drums of “Machine Gun” can reduce cities to rubble. This record is so disturbingly beautiful that it’s almost impossible to digest on first listen. The atmosphere, the minimalism, the Kraut-Rock leanings:It’s all so wild and pretty spectacular. Every inventive track captures some sense of fractured emotion. It’s like 50 minutes of heart on your bloody sleeve, piece-meal style. Beth Gibbons is an incredible vocalist but reminds me of an opera singer and mime. She’s not singing-she’s describing deep deep things from her broken and beautiful heart a midst a sea of synth blips, industrial noise, and treated instruments. “The Rip” reduces the album to a simple cheap nylon guitar, who’s strings you can nearly hear breaking, and an echo chamber voice. Then come the swirling arps and percussion and you’ve got the rebirth of Can. This is a record that every band should shoot for, at least once. It’s an about face from Dummy and I say that in the most complimentary of ways. This record to us is on the same playing field as Kid A and I think Radiohead might agree. It’s a game changer. It says “The rules are different now. Be who you want to be.” They abided by that philosophy and still managed to go platinum.
Distortion Mirrors’ latest record, Zeros and Kings, is out now.
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