BUÑUEL – Killers Like Us (2022)REVIEW

The real purpose of surrealism was not to create a new literary, artistic, or even philosophical movement, but to explode the social order, to transform life itself.” Luis Buñuel, My Last Sigh

To spend a lifetime an artisan described as “avant-garde” used to take a lot of leg-work, being your freak-ass self whilst dodging the ever-squirming target of normalcy as defined by the best represented upper middle class, fidgeting under the distress of lost purpose as their gorged bellies and gouging eyes prodded commissioned “material” for meaning. Thee depraved ghouldom of faux cultural texture set (and allowed reset) of the rules by force. Unlucky enough for anti-rock music visionaries that’d sprang up beyond the street cracked-skull punks of the late 1970’s technology has allowed for precision categorization of the avant-garde throughout generations — If anyone goes on wanting your off-topic, off-kilter, jagged form of musical rebellion they’ve got a bin for that somewhere on the internet and can scramble their brains accordingly. Absurdist or otherwise, the available identity crisis should sink in immediately for those participating: Am I one of “them”, are we the corporate rock fossilization of the new normative saleable avant-garde? The best surreal and/or speculative fiction often twists in a similar direction: Are we the good guys, or were we the bad guys all along? This third album from Italo-American avant-noise rock quartet Buñuel feeds us a relevant conundrum up front with its title, ‘Killers Like Us‘. Beyond the previously implied quandary of belonging this shared mercantile of death is in our hands regardless, a trip of our own design to mull as these fellowes spray distorted sparks, gloomiest prose and ‘quaked rhythms as they present a too personal unraveling of death’s design.

Formed prior to ~2016 between veterans of Italian indie rock, post-punk and noise rock groups Afterhours, One Dimensional Man, and Il Teatro Degli Orrori alongside renowned vocalist/author Eugene Robinson of Oxbow most of the initial pull for Buñuel was/is their frontman’s distinct performance and presence, any deeper fealty has been earned via the nuance available on their previous two records. I am definitely a Robinson fan having landed in Oxbow‘s realm circa ‘Serenade in Red‘ and soon after discovering a huge preference for his work in mid-80’s experimental hardcore punk band Whipping Boy. In approach of ‘A Resting Place For Strangers‘ (2016) it nonetheless pays better dividends to know both the trajectory of the vocalist’s work as well as Il Teatro Degli Orrori, not so much their more accessible earlier work but the harder turn taken on their self-titled 2015 record. With this context the merger of worlds makes better sense though nailing Buñuel‘s sound beyond the suggestion of exaggerative, confrontational noise rock with a tuneful, often ranting state of mind is difficult. Their debut was slightly more tentative at what I’d consider EP length and by ‘The Easy Way Out‘ (2018) Buñuel had found a solid understanding of each other’s strengths, erring towards mid-paced, keyboard tickled prose-presented noise rock pieces and a few punk-paced kicks. In 2018 I’d remarked: “‘The Easy Way Out’ has the feeling of an old Alternative Tentacles release but if Frank Black wrote an Oxbow record circa 1992.” and I’m not sure how well -that- whole idea holds up but the “freakout” rock record I’d been charmed by at the time is further expanded upon on ‘Killers Like Us‘.

Proposed as a sort of third heaviest leg of a trilogy, some greater access to the meaning behind some of the songs on ‘Killers Like Us‘ this time around suggests there was quite a fair deal of unexplored depth available to Buñuel‘s past works and even a bit of themed continuity-lite when we consider the second single from the album, “Crack Shot” again features a duet between Robinson and his wife Kasia (Maneki Nekro), who’d guested on “Me + I” on the first album and “Shot” on the second. What meaningful thread carries through each record, eh? Baggage and ownership, death as a form of personal control, and the empowering sense of self a person achieves when acknowledging their morbidity rather than running from it. This is less a “suicide rock” vibe than it is a willingness to explore mental extremes, take a huge hit of darkness head-on and be changed by it for better or worse. A loose interpretation, for what it is worth.

The action here is abrasive, inventive, and somehow catchy in a deranged sort of way fans of late 80’s/early 90’s noise rock should instantly appreciate. The recordings here are stripped down to guitar, bass, drums and vocals this time around with the guitar largely acting as the only shapeable voicing beyond the vocals themselves. Some strong emphasis on a muscled up and slightly percussive bass guitar tone from Andrea Lombardini, rooted next to the brilliant floor-set drum presence and performances of Frencesco Valente, provides vital foundation for this particular record’s strength and continuity as a full listen; Any solid noise rock band lives and dies by the tautness of their rhythm section and they’ve impressed throughout all three of Buñuel‘s records thus far. Some manner of guitar synth/keyboards do flare up on a few songs but the incendiary, often shrill wandering of Xabier Iriondo‘s guitar work unto noise is the crucial foil to coexist next to Robinson‘s famously expressive voice. “When God Used a Rope” makes good sense as a sort of toe-tapping freakout and a showcase for this specific level of guitar/vocal interaction and how vital the rhythm section’s root motions keep this oddly catchy post-punk song’s momentum enough to remain tuneful. Side A is tough to sum beyond its admirable exploration of guitar noise and a few incredible points of inflection from Robinson, such as the Sméagol-level enunciation of certain lyrics on “Stocklock” and the riveting entrance provided by “Hornets”.

Side B is more of a coaster-ride through a conflicted, manic spectrum of expression as Buñuel jog through the fuzzed noise punk of “Roll Call” to the lumbering sludge mounding of major standout “When We Talk”. I’d loved the tonal flip shared between these two pieces from the first listen, less shocking for their pace change so much as the shift in mood which continues to twist wildly as the Cows-esque trundle of “A Prison of Measured Time” reaches into the band’s deepest trove of noise rock sandpaper and broad-shouldered bassline creeps. From there we reach what I’d consider the point of complete dissonance, dissociation from the guitar rock rumble of ‘Killers Like Us’ and into the low mood as the end draws near. “For the Cops” being low-key one of the bigger points of confrontation on the album and “Even the Jungle” leaning towards a spoken word/droning noise piece. Much like Throat‘s most recent record I’d found these more experimental and “minimal” immersive pieces read as interesting artistic direction unto noise experimentation rather than filler, but suffice to say the album fades in menacing light rather than going out with an absolute bang and a fade-out might be disappointing to some.

The devil is in the details b/w the devil never takes his time. Buñuel might’ve taken four years of patient lurking to finally hit us with ‘Killers Like Us‘ yet it feels all the more urgent and impactful as the sort of noisier-than-thou noise rock record we twisted anti-rock weirdos have been thirsty as Hell for these last two years. They’re still just being themselves, maybe going a bit harder and ringing a bit clearer in a practical sense, but this is Buñuel at all available extremes be they catchiest, heaviest or cruelest. I’d found every moment and every spin well worth savoring as a rare event, one that’d have me rolling back through their last two records realizing I should’ve seen the signs, couldn’t have possibly missed all of the red flags, wishing I’d known sooner. A high recommendation.

High recommendation. (86/100)

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.
TITLE:Killers Like Us
LABEL(S):Profound Lore Records
RELEASE DATE:February 18th, 2022

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