ON-J is performing @ the upcoming SMASH IT DEAD Fest, and as I got excited about this fact I also realized that we here at the Hassle have somehow NOT written about their most recent record (!), INJURY TRAIN AND I’M NEVER GETTING OFF IT b/w VULNERABILITY, which was released late last year and which I have been spinning in my home ever since. Oh the shame.
A curiosity to be sure, OLIVIA NEUTRON-JOHN (aka Anna Nasty) is now two releases along down a singular road that originated in Tempe and now beams out to the world brightly from Washington, DC. This road is colored by the histories of punk, bedroom DIY, free jazz, and various strains of electronic musics. What is the color of such a road? Not sure. I’m paying attention, though, so I think I may figure it out eventually. Nasty refers to the music as “post-bro,” which is pretty amazing and, once you get listening, fairly apt in its ambiguous way.
It can safely be said that I’ve never heard much like Nasty’s ON-J. On this latest album the buried impassioned yelping and speak-sing remind me at times of Kassie from G-TOSS, Pony P from LES GEORGES LENINGRAD, and, even for a fleeting second, that Zack de la Rocha guy. The vocal delivery is slathered across two side-long suites that are strung together via continuous electronic beat, at times shifting (slightly mostly) but at others fully morphing into a completely new loop. The electronic beats are the daughters of cheapo keyboards, as are the synthesizer sounds that accompany the beats, together laying a bubbling and inviting groundwork for the more challenging vocal delivery and saxophone sections. The sax playing is crucial to the ON-J sound. It’s wild at times but is more often than not the carrier of the melody throughout Injury Train and I’m Never Getting Off It b/w Vulnerability.
“Vulnerability” is just short of 15 minutes long, and while it is presented as one continuous track, you can definitely feel where the baby songs exist within the longer mother song. This is my favorite side of this release, as it jumps immediately into its intoxicating rhythm, buoying a Nasty breathless vocal delivery and conjuring 8-bit dreamworld memories, syncopated pixels flashing across my mind’s eye. I feel nostalgic and uneasy all at once. Perhaps ON-J’s greatest achievement is this: forcing the listener to feel warring emotions simultaneously, a rarefied feat, a new kind of punk, a new kind of underground music, or at least a new application of the related mindset to a new recipe of sound for the underground. There’s not a lot I want to hear more than the next OLIVIA NEUTRON-JOHN record.
Anna Nasty performs in CHAIN AND THE GANG as well and will also grace our city with their presence and sounds on 6/8 @ the Whitehaus @ a show that our dear friends @ B.O.W. Shows are throwing!!