Album Of The Week

Album Of The Week: Fuck Buttons Slow Focus

By Tom Breihan / July 23, 2013

Of all the moderately popular bands with the word “fuck” in their band name, Fucked Up is and will always be my favorite. But London’s Fuck Buttons, now three albums deep into a career that turns noise into planetarium music, do the most to earn their “fuck.” The “fuck” in Fuck Buttons’ name doesn’t remotely connote sex, and it’s not the “fuck” that you yell when you bang your toe on a door frame. Instead, the “fuck” of Fuck Buttons is the stoned, befuddled, contemplating-the-infinite sort of “fuck.” It’s the “fuck” that you say out loud when you see eyeless cave-lizards on Planet Earth, or when you exhale after watching that guy cross the Grand Canyon on a tightrope: “Fuuuuuhhck.” That’s the “fuck” you use when no other word will quite do when you’re trying to hint at the enormity of what’s going on within your brain at the exact moment when you say it. And of the duo’s three albums, the brand new Slow Focus has the highest “fuck” factor; it’s your latest soundtrack for wondering what’s on the other side of a black hole, or why people can be such dicks sometimes.

When Fuck Buttons released Street Horrrsing in 2008, it felt like a revelation, like one of the drone-scrape warehouse-noise groups from the No Fun Fest scene had suddenly figured out how to twinkle and flutter, to find some pleasure within all the punishment. The 2009 follow-up Tarot Sport almost dropped the idea of catharsis completely, roping in early-rave traveler Andrew Weatherall to produce and cranking out sunny globs of psychedelic fizz. Since then, it’s been four years of touring and side projects and random Olympic opening-ceremony song-placements. And now Slow Focus feels like the best parts of those last two albums — the ominous grind of Street Horrrsing, the dazed psychedelia of Tarot Sport — fusing together into something dark and grand and mysterious, but also precise and efficient. The two members of Fuck Buttons produced the album themselves, working in a room together until they’d perfected their titanic tribal wobbles. And they clearly understand how their sound works better than anyone else — when to bury a lonely feedback wail deep in the mix, when to make a bass-roar sound like the loudest thing that ever happened, when to gradually dial up the dramatic sci-fi theremins.

Slow Focus works patiently, its seven tracks unspooling gradually over almost an hour, and it never takes solace in anything as simple and comforting as an actual human vocal, at least one that you can recognize as such. And it doesn’t sit comfortably under any one genre designation. Individual moments might sound like dance, or krautrock, or industrial, or drone, or noise, or fearfully foreboding post-rock, but all those things seem to specific and earthbound for anything as sweepingly nebulous as this. You have to reach further to describe it. Parts of the album sound like Yeezus, minus rapping and bravado. Parts of it sound like Daft Punk’s “Contact,” if the astronaut whose voice they’d sampled had seen something terrible and angry and impossible. Parts of it sound like Goblin’s soundtrack to an unmade Argento movie about the invasion from the dimension of killer robot ants. Parts of it sound like the fearsome god Dubstep, rising from the earth’s crust to wreak vengeance on the false pretenders to His name. When the album is on, it’s hard to even focus on what the individual elements of the track are doing, or which other artists the duo might be pulling inspiration from. It simply is. And that’s why it’s some of the finest bad-mood music anyone has made in quite some time.

Slow Focus is out now on ATP Recordings.

Other albums of note out this week:

• Weekend’s assured, streamlined, huge-sounding sophomore effort Jinx.
• The Love Language’s euphorically packed-to-bursting indie-popper Ruby Red.
• Gogol Bordello’s spirited, urgently cosmopolitan Pure Vida Conspiracy.
• Former Hüsker Dü co-leader Grant Hart’s solo outing The Argument.
• Hunx & His Punx’ charming queercore-revival bow Street Punk.
• Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes’ self-titled LP.
• Will Oldham collaborator’s the Cairo Gang’s mystical jangle-folk mini-album Tiny Rebels.
• Black Tusk’s fiery sludge metal Tend No Wounds EP.