Updated: Jan 30, 2022
Favorite Song: "Crack" Least Fav Song: N/A
As someone who has been deeply enamored with the dark and macabre for years now, the idea of a truly manic person’s psyche has always been something that I love to explore. While within this thought though, I begin to wonder what that psyche feels like, what it sounds like, how it encapsulates such a dark and twisted mindset while simultaneously being able to function in society. This is something I have obviously never come close to understanding, the likes of Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy have always and will always be an enigma that I am incapable of mentally unravelling.
However, I think I have found the closest alternative to understanding how the psyche of a truly insane person of their kind feels and sounds. This bold artistic statement comes packaged in 1 800 Pain’s debut album, BEST HOUSE ON A BAD BLOCK. At its most basic, none of these themes may have been meticulously explored, but instead, it is a fantastical example of sonic imagery. The instrumentation on this record is terrifyingly ghastly, at times the word “instrumentation” might not even be applicable, especially on some of the grotesque moments on “DESTROYUSALL” or “LURK”, but that isn’t even a criticism. The terror this record manages to instill in me while also managing to create some of the most sonically captivating tracks of the year, sounds like the work of a group that has had years of experience. All this is to say, this album is significantly more impressive as a debut, for both its musical expertise and its sonic imagery.
Now, lyrically, this record does little to nothing to revolutionize, but instead offers hilarious tongue-in-cheek rap bars. There is also macabre imagery painted on “SHELF”, where an out-of breath, urgent refrain of “Why I gotta fuck it up?/Why can’t I be happy?” is muttered under dark, overblown bass notes. However, the instrumentation on the record feels like it gives new life to typical subjects in rap, most notably on the track “LURK”. If I was to pick one track that I felt exemplified the aforementioned serial killer attitude, “LURK” does so perfectly. The track offers sexual themes that feel typical of the rap genre at base, but complemented by the eerie, stalker-esque instrumental, lyrics about wanting to lurk on someone’s Instagram or wanting to learn more about someone feel astonishingly sinister. The flipside of manic imagery shows up on the more introspective “CAKE”, too, where instead we see eerily simple lyrics about not knowing what this person wants, and not being able to “have your cake and eat it too”. The emotional palette of the record, while lyrically basic, is seen in new light through the lens of the terrifying instrumentals.
If I had to sum up the sound of this record, which is a very tough thing to do, I would tell someone that it sounds like Daughters’ You Won’t Get What You Want being thrown in a violent blender alongside the industrial/experimental hip-hop influences of Death Grips, and the erratic, pitch-shifted vocal style of 100 gecs. BEST HOUSE ON A BAD BLOCK feels like the zenith of experimentation in music over the past decade, the culmination of every underground trend attempting to make music that is aggressive and abrasive while also trying to remain sonically captivating. Songs like “CRACK” and “LEGO” would typically be classified as experimental hip-hop, but manage to pull together influences of industrial, rock, synth-pop, punk, metal; the list goes on. What pulls it all together, however, is that 1 800 Pain manages to make a record that should logically feel astonishingly disjointed, but instead manages to act as one cohesive entity. The fact that this record doesn’t sound absolutely atrocious, due to its heavy use of abrasive bass notes, piercing synths, and terror inducing screams, is a musical enigma. Instead, it feels new, fresh, beautifully flawed and exhilaratingly scary. It challenges me as a listener in a way that no other record ever has.