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A.R.E. Weapons

A.R.E. Weapons

Rough Trade

It may indeed all be a put-on, for all I know, but the long-haired fuckers in the Weapons have succeeded in putting out the most wide-eyed and life-affirming and positive record I've heard in forever now. These are fucking genuine optimist anthems delivered in pure sleaze, sure, but you don't judge a book by its cover, you judge it by if it makes you want to take on the whole fucking world at once. Without ONE ounce of cynicism or irony. It's pure love, baby.

Even the packaging is beautiful, and so consistent with the A.R.E. vibe -- blackest of the black backgrounds with minimalist white and red text and logos. The cover image, so I've been told, is from a shot in the Exorcist, but altered so it looks more like Lon Chaney in the Phantom of the Opera or a witch doctor. Inside the slim booklet are two blood-red grainy silkscreens of members Brain and Matt, totally rocking out. Very cool, very dangerous.

The first track, "Don't Be Scared," well justified my love immediately. Over a tinny drum machine and the cheapest keyboards EVER, and some raging guitar on the chorus, the Weapons basically set forward their mission statement for the entire record in a few simple lines. It's a wide-eyed joie de vivre that rivals even that of Jad Fair or Suicide in "Subway Comedian," just with more leather. They're one of the few who can get away with a chorus of, "Dude, that's cool/Life was meant to be awesome" like it's gospel truth, shucking free of hipster slime and just testifying that yeah, life can be fucking awesome.

As if there even needed to be any more songs after that, "Fuck You Pay Me" starts off with a total bite of the first few lines of Lou Reed's "Walk On The Wild Side" before bursting into the neato cyborg chorus of "fuck you pay me / give me my money." Of course it's a sarcastic commentary on leeches and our society's compulsion toward stupid consumerist novelties and trends.

Somehow they make the claustro-headtrip of "Black Mercedes" (from the "Street Gang" single) even more repetitive and dark. It flows on and on, in a thin ebon line, with some woozy Numan keyboard breaks laid against screeching tires. It's the most perfect driving music since Kraftwerk's Autobahn and that one track from Miss Kittin and Golden Boy's record that bit the Misfits lyric. Same goes for "Street Gang" -- usually when bands reinterpret material from previous singles, they make them more hi-tech, up to date, whatever. If anything, the Weapons take perverse delight in stripping down and muddying up the earlier numbers, with more broken-down keyboards, more weirdo sound effects, less clarity. The bass line is replaced by synth buzz. Makes it even more catchy, don't know how. Yeah I do, cuz it's fucking dub nightmare punk.

And as long as we're talking about anthems, "Hey World" is now the undisputed king. Listen, it's about teens and how hard it is to grow up, and how the world seems to totally suck, but the way they do it is so unlike forty-year olds like Korn and Limp Bizkit who trade in adolescent angst like it's porn or something -- this is world-weary, been-there-done-that-learned-from-it anguish complete with disco dissonance and a backing chorus of real kids. This song is ten stories high and a mile wide, a monument of scuzz pop power.

And as "Hey World" ends, I can't help but think to myself, "Where the fuck is 'New York Muscle'?" Can't believe that (in mein opinion) their strongest song wouldn't make the debut; fear not, it's a hidden track at the end. They've fucked around with it as well, but it's still a dubby mess of misguided testosterone. It's like William Burroughs reincarnated as Michelle Pfeiffer in that Batman movie, popping human growth hormones like jelly beans and harassing the fey hunks down at Muscle Beach. Fuck yeah.

All the other songs fucking rule too, okay? Especially the one about headbanging that has an X-Files-y keyboard riff here and there. This is the album of the year.

Rough Trade Records: http://www.roughtrade.com