Why Kurt Marble Rules by Jonny Dovercourt (2016)
Kurt Marble rules because he knows that doing it right involves doing it wrong.
Let me back up for a sec. If you read books about rock music, you’re probably part of an increasingly small minority, and if you don’t, you’ve probably already been distracted by a Snapchat or something. But bear with me. One of the finest – and funniest – books about rock music of recent years is entitled Supernatural Strategies for Making a Rock’n’Roll Group, by Ian Svenonious, the former frontman of Nation of Ulysses, Make Up, Weird War, and currently Chain and the Gang. In the notorious chapter on Drugs, Svenonious outlines the influence of different mind-altering substances on different decades of popular music. The author makes the case that our contemporary 21st century era is defined not by weed, booze, or coke, but by antidepressants, which dull the edges of personality and shave off any behaviour marked “incorrect.” In music, this results in an entire generation beholden to their influences, and slavishly copying the work of icons such as The Stooges or The Jesus and Mary Chain, not deviating from their formula for fear of doing it “wrong.”
This may explain why so much contemporary “indie” music is so jarringly inoffensive, and why every hit song in this radio marketing category sounds like the same jaunty parade chant – and that parade leads right to the headquarters of a telecom, so the song can be instantly inserted into a smartphone commercial.
Kurt Marble does not do this. Thank FUCK. On both his self-recorded EP Notes and his gloriously shambolic live show, Mr. Marble brings back all those things that have been missing from so much modern indie rock: sloppiness, goofiness, righteous FUZZ and goddamn HOOKS. Some of these addictive properties may also be acquired from the likes of fellow travelers Ty Segall and Mac DeMarco, but as these bands have graduated to playing larger clubs and venues, I must employ the Inverse-Fucks rule: the number of fucks you can give about a band that DGAF decreases proportionally per hundred metres you are forced to stand from the stage. You’re lucky you’ll be able to taste their sweat on Saturday night at Jimmy Jazz – a likely occurrence, since Kurt often ends up his sets shirtless, or at least only wearing a dress.
So here’s the recipe: Marble takes some legendary, “correct” influences – the psych-punk sludge-rock of Dinosaur Jr., the glam boogie shake of T. Rex, the hurtin’ Midwestern howl of The Replacements (the last one a bit of a gimme since the first song on Notes is called “Replacement”) – shakes them up in old soda can and sprays them all over the crowd Gwar-style. By treating rock music influences so irreverently, he actually gets closer to their spirit. The result is a fantastic mess, full of catchy-as-all-hell guitar riffs and pop vocal harmonies fight-or-flighting their way out of the lo-fi din. It doesn’t matter if Kurt Marble is just Kurt solo in his home studio or backed up live by his more than capable band – in spite of the chaos, drummer Steve Kwok (Radius & Helena) and bassist Christina Ingraldi (Tails) are actually tighter than a man-bun, and Paul McEachern gets more chances to guitar- school shred than he does in Most People – either way, it all has that so-wrong-it’s-right feel. Which reminds you of an eternal truth you know in your heart, perhaps long forgotten – that rock music is supposed to be FUN, goddammit.
Jonny Dovercourt is the co-founder and Artistic Director of Wavelength Music, who co-present Saturday night (April 9) of Kazoo! Fest at Jimmy Jazz, featuring Kurt Marble, alongside Dories, West Nile, and New Chance. He is also a member of post-punk space-rock trio Several Futures.