Black Eyes — Cough (2004, Dischord)
Around 2000, there was lots of talk about the future of Dischord. Fugazi’s 1998 long play, End Hits was interpreted by many to be suggestive of a pending break-up of the label’s flagship group. Speculation aside, Black Eyes and Q and Not U both appeared on the scene around the start of the new millennium and breathed new life into the iconic Washington DC label. The second and final LP by art punks Black Eyes, ranks among the most interesting material ever released by Dischord. “Cough, Cough” opens with sparse instrumentation, dub inspired bass lines, and layered, erratic vocals. Like a stick of buttered dynamite the segue into “Eternal Life” ushers in a new era of Dischord. Miles away from Minor Threat, Void, SOA, Beefeater, Nation of Ulysses or anything else the label has released. Bursts of free jazz horn playing, skronky and angular guitars, and psychedelic keys that recalls the Monks at their most agitated. On top, vocals that are crazed and wildly enigmatic. Underneath, tight, bass heavy rhythms, reminiscent of the mighty Fugazi. The vocals on “False Positive” are part reggae toasting, part hip-hip. “Commencement” features a saxophone line which recalls Mulatu Astake and bizarre spoken vocals. With Cough, Black Eyes depart from the danceable noise punk on their debut and in the processes dually refuse to be pigeonholed as “another DC band” and reject genre conventions in their totality. Black Eyes are the text book definition of an experimental rock band: impossible to nail down and never derivative. They’re brave in their approach, humorous (perhaps unintentionally), and wholly original.