Let’s get this out of the way: I am a longtime friend and occasional collaborator with Hepa/Titus founder Kevin Rutmanis, so of course I can be expected to file the obligatory fawning review. Yeah, yeah, call it nepotism or whatever you will: That does nothing to change the fact that this is a kickass band, a kickass album, and—so far as my own jaded ears are concerned—one of the few excuses I can find to bother listening to anything made within the current millennium.
“Teenage snakes eat candy and fuck.” That’s an actual, bona fide, gen-u-wine Hepa/Titus lyric, as lovingly proffered in track #3, “Dirt Squirt.” For those inclined to pick up on such subtleties, it’s a cue to what sets this particular passel of musical malfeasance apart from the pasteurized, sanitized, boring-ass pack: Brain damage. And I mean that in the nicest possible way: Not to imply stupidity or defectiveness; just damage, the sorta scarring that numbs one to sensory input, filters the scraps of data that make it through the battered tissue, and spit them back out in interesting and incomprehensible forms.
Following along with Follow Me leads one through some pretty pig-fucked musical terrain: “Well Come Back Home” opens as a drawling, somewhat plaintive, faintly westernized minor key thing before being bulldozed into an odd hash of reverb-drizzled bass, kick-thump percussion, and faintly Sonic Youth-ish (!!!) guitar tangle. The damaged, anthemic “Jesus Children of America” offers up some face-smashing riffing alternating with hollow, meditative bass interludes. “Subway Vampire/Rad Candy” opens with a rudderless bass meander overlaid with non sequitur lyrics about counting cigarette cartons, traveling by bus, and whatever else seemed to attract the singer’s attention at the moment.
And oh, there’s more. Nine songs worth, a cavalcade of caterwaul that showcases the musician’s capacity for creating, and propensity to create, towering monoliths of crushing, riff-driven squall encased in a flavorful frosting of hostility, and lovingly drizzled with incoherence. They’re great songs, but none of them sound like they were really written per se; more like they evolved out of damaged musical cells like little audio tumors. In kind fascinating and alternately kind of horrifying. And rather insanely cool.
I know something about this band, its players and its pedigree. These guys’ve been around the block a bit: They’ve heard about a thousand next big things and a million very important artists come and go, and I doubt they’ve been impressed by any of them. Something inclines me to believe they’re even less impressed with their acolytes, and still less so with any notion of an intersection of music and popularity. This music isn’t about getting girls, gaining fans, or cultivating consideration as artistes: This is about monkeys flinging poo at the inferior humans gaping at them through the bars, while wishing they had grenades to throw instead. Hepa/Titus are doing their thing for its own sake, not for yours or mine or any other jerkoff critic or addled audience member. Sure, it’s entertaining, but that’s an accidental byproduct of an inwardly-focused process that’s concerned only with its own interests: Noise, hazy aggression, relief from boredom, a desire to indiscriminately sadden the unsuspecting or unprepared. Follow Me actually doesn’t give much of a fuck if you follow along or not: It’s just fine without you, doesn’t notice if you’re there, and is prone to periodically exploding in your fucking face without warning. One minute it’s sitting in the closet, rocking back and forth in the dark and muttering to itself; the next, it’s chasing you down the hallway with a claw hammer.
So, in the end, what makes Hepa/Titus so new and delightfully different? A careful blend of indifference and hostility, that’s what. Not to the music, just to you, the music consumer. Not since the halcyon Metal Box days of PiL has outright enmity come in such an appealing, creative package; Hepa/Titus is following its own jagged, fascinating, fucked up path towards some mad black horizon that only it can see, and which only the most imaginative and adventurous might follow them to. [Amphetamine Reptile]
-David B. Livingstone
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