Sunday, July 25, 2010
Boris & Ian Astbury - BXI
Boris & Ian Astbury
I ain’t gonna lie: when I first heard that Cult leader Ian Astbury was gonna collaborate with experimental Japanese heavy rock trio Boris, my first thought was “Oh god, why?” Boris’ work is always interesting, frequently astonishing, even transcendent. Astbury is, well, Astbury. Either you can tolerate his off-key, testosterone-addled bleat or you can’t. If you could see the shudder going down my spine every time I typed his name, you wouldn’t wonder which side of the fence I stand on.
So imagine my surprise at how hard I’m falling for BXI. Boris plays it straight here, eschewing its tendencies towards drone for straightahead, chunky hard rock, all brutal riffs, lysergic solos and powerhouse drumming. Astbury is his usual self, minus a few edges shaved off – he wails less, perhaps due to advancing age, though he’s probably more atonal than usual. But, astonishingly, that fits Boris’ dinosaur-stomped soundscapes perfectly, as if this is the music for which Astbury’s been searching his entire life. (At the very least it’s gotta beat fronting the tattered remains of the Doors.) His gothic roar sits astride Teeth and Claws and We Are the Wolves as comfortably as Zeus atop Mount Olympus, while his melodramatic croon suits the ballad Magickal Child perfectly. Surrounded by a storm of Takeshi and Wata’s six-string fury and Atsuo’s extraordinary drum kit abuse, Astbury sounds more powerful, more graceful, more – dare it be said – soulful than he ever has in his long career.
The EP’s capper, though, might very well be the song on which Astbury doesn’t appear. In tribute to its new comrade, Boris covers the Cult classic Rain, slipping into the song’s psychedelic hipshake as if born to it, with Atsuo’s grooving drums and Wata’s ethereal vocals leading the way. It’s fuckin’ brilliant, in a way I never thought a Cult song could be – it almost makes me want to go back to the band’s catalog to see what else I might have missed. Until then, though, I’ll happily spin BXI repeatedly and marvel at how redemption can find even the most unlikely suspects.
- Michael Toland