A Review of Kisses and Hugs

Sometimes at WRCT we pick up random albums and just take a listen. We were attracted to Kisses and Hugs’s Positive Youth 1994!!! by its amazing and ridiculous yellow cover featuring a black kitten with a horseshoe, a guy in a ski mask, and — most entertainingly — the band members in action; they are obviously nerds. Below is a transcript of our conversation during our first listen through this album.

Alexander Smith: So midway through the second track, “Genital Ben,” I’m already wondering how this dude’s voice hasn’t given out.

Joannie Wu: Are these dudes playing in Josh Atlas’ basement? ’Cause it looks like it. I honestly don’t hear any kazoo, mandolin, or sax, all of which they credit themselves with playing. Huh.

A: Who knows? Okay, now we’re up to “Holy Shit,” which is like 45 seconds long and actually pretty decent. These songs go by quickly.

J: This is like, super speedcore or something. If you play it at 33 instead of 45 it kind of sounds like nu-metal. Hilarious.

A: There goes the A side. The next track is “Fuck Your Speclogics.” Is that a word? I don’t think it’s a word.

J: “Misplaced Suicide Notes” just sounds like nu-metal in general. It’s kind of funny to read their little blurb on the cover hating on screamo [hardcore emo] because when they actually made the album in 1994 this music was still considered “fresh”…Except they just left it under their beds or something for eight years and then decided to do a 500-copy limited vinyl release. Why do we even own this?

A: ’Cause it obviously rules. Also, half of the “thanks to” section on the back says “RIP” next to it. What the hell?

J: Maybe those are old defunct bands that they knew/were a part of. God, Courier is a bad typeface to use.

A: I’m fairly sure this band doesn’t care about design at all. Look at them. Uh, this next song is a Negative Approach cover. But it sounds the same as all the others. Some of these riffs sound kind of like Slayer.

J: Oh! There’s all that kazoo/mandolin/sax shit. Five seconds’ worth.

A: It was a good five seconds, though. And the last track, “Why Do You Insist I Need College To Validate My Life, Fucker?” is like seven seconds long and has only those lyrics. I like it — strong finish for the record.

J: Amazing. It speaks to me.

On rock star deaths

I never thought that Jesus had much to do with rock and roll, but according to some, the Good Shepherd intervenes regularly to cut short the sinful lives of some of our best-known and best-loved musical celebrities. Dial-the-Truth Ministries has compiled a list of dead rock stars at www.av1611.org/rockdead.html. The site tracks some 300 rock-star deaths, attributing about half to high-risk behavior like drug use and the remainder to natural causes like heart attacks and leukemia.

The implication is that while some rock stars kill themselves with their lifestyles, many others are struck down by God. According to the site, rock stars live half as long as regular citizens. Preachers have long told us that listening to rock music is playing with fire; this study claims that performing it is stepping directly into the flames.

Even outside of art, early death plays a huge role in Western society. Christianity sticks in our memories in part because of its own early deaths: Jesus ascended into heaven at 33, a full 3.9 years sooner than the average Dial-the-Truth rock star. Sure, there was a vast increase in life expectancy over the millennia — but was it not Jesus’ own lifestyle and celebrity status that brought him before Pontius Pilate?

Of course, there are differences between rock stars and Jesus. I mean only to point out the cultural significance of the demise; how we take an early, unexpected death, and remember it. We try to ascribe the death to cause and effect, try to find reasons why someone died before he or she should have. But coping with an untimely death is different than using it to send a moral message. A person’s life ought to be more than a political or evangelical tool, and those who manipulate the lives of the departed demean both themselves and their faiths. If we were to reduce Jesus’ life to its end, all we would have is a warning against bucking the system, not the rich and diverse set of teachings conveyed through the rest of His life.

Those who believe that rock music is an inherently evil force do not understand that rock music is simply a mode of expression. Just as language can be used both to denounce the Holy Spirit and praise the Lord, electric guitars and robust bass lines can be used for good, evil, or neither. Both religion and music can celebrate what makes us human, albeit in different ways. Rock music at its best articulates what it means to be alive, and in its own way can help us extend beyond our raw animal selves into the world of the mind and spirit.

On sex music

Music can tantalize the aural senses, arouse the physical body, and complement the fine art of copulation. So for people who can’t stand Marvin Gaye and are tired of infomercials for Girls Gone Wild in the background while you’re trying to “get your bone on,” here’s a short stack of new choices provided by the DJs of WRCT.

Goth/Industrial: Here we have an expansive selection of choices depending on what kind of emotion you want to express, as long as it’s angry or sad. Depeche Mode’s “A Question Of Lust” or “Never Let Me Down Again” are tried and true slow romantic songs that set the mood and allow for some sensual writhing. Then, to pick up the pace and really get rough, try some aggrotech like Combichrist’s “You Will Be The Bitch Now” or “Enjoy The Abuse” — you’ll definitely show your partner who’s the boss. For those not interested in reaming but still wanting to make an impact, “Closer” by Nine Inch Nails is an absolute foolproof solution. Following the climax, we suggest either Wolfsheim’s “Lovesong” (for cuddles) or “I Don’t Love You Anymore” (to kick them out of your bed).

Metal: Most metal songs aren’t really designed to enhance your sexing. If they’re mentioning sex at all, it’s usually along the lines of W.A.S.P.’s “Animal (Fuck Like a Beast)” or Cannibal Corpse’s “Orgasm Through Torture” — not exactly the thing that most people would pick for getting it on. However, if you’re looking for background music, there are always bands like — in increasingly ambient order — My Dying Bride, Isis, Angel Eyes, Harvey Milk, Corrupted, or Sunn O))), which will at least not actively impair your mood-setting attempts. On the other hand, if your preferred manner of getting it on involves breaking furniture and possible contusions, it’s hard to go wrong with Motorhead or Dragonforce.

Electronic: If you don’t mind long, slow sex, there’s always “Fuck” by the Hafler Trio, which clocks in at nearly a half-hour of strange samples and typical creepy ambient atmosphere. If you like a little less subtlety, there’s Nymphomatriarch by Hecate and Venetian Snares, featuring song titles like “Blood on the Rope” and “Hymen Tramp Choir,” which is an album made entirely out of samples recorded via contact mikes of the two artists having sex in a hotel room. If you like things even less subtle than that, do it near a TV and put on the video for “Windowlicker” by Aphex Twin, or “flex” by Chris Cunningham.

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