The band's strongest recording yet.
Louis Pattison 2009-06-29
The Thing are jazz, but not as you know it. Formed over a decade ago by Scandinavian players Mats Gustafsson, Ingebrigt Haker Flaten and Paal Nilssen-Love to interpret the songs of trumpeter Don Cherry, the outfit has outgrown such humble aims to become something bigger... and heavier. Across approaching a dozen releases, the influence of some of free jazz's most fiery performers – the likes of Peter Brotzmann and Albert Ayler – have intermingled with a grounding in rock 'n' roll, resulting in covers of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, White Stripes and Lightning Bolt and a headbang-friendly dynamic that appeals outside jazz circles.
For new album, Bag It!, The Thing have chosen an unlikely sort of foil – veteran engineer Steve Albini, who has in the past made his distaste for jazz quite clear. Actually, though, the pairing of The Thing's visceral playing and Albini's raw analogue production style has resulted in what might be the band's strongest recording yet. Hidgen Fujnaka A Szelek, a cover of Dutch anarcho-punk outfit The Ex, is a raging opening, Gustafsson's wailing, melancholic sax opening cutting the ribbon on a blazing three-way interplay of grinding fuzz bass and dashed drums, jagged bursts of skronk baritone sax and off-microphone shouts. The following Drop The Gun, a cover of Japanese punk band 54 Nude Honeys, meanwhile, commences with racing riffs and spry drums, but gradually picks up mass, Gustafsson setting down saxophone and slaking the rhythm section with broiling electronics.
Following this double-barrelled opening salvo, The Thing relax a little with the title track, a ten-minute piece that commences with an extended segment of free play from Nilssen-Love before sax and bass join the fray. The second half of Bag It! hits more traditional jazz buttons, throwing in an energetic cover of Duke Ellington's Mystery Song – while a closing take of Albert Ayler's Angels finally softens the tone, a wistful melody from Gustafsson that fades to a rattle of percussion and a quiet buzz of static.