A career retrospective that's the absolute opposite of easy listening.
Stephanie Burkett 2009
With a band name like that, and song titles called things like Sex in Your Mouth and F****** Isn’t Cheating, it’s a fair assumption that Gay for Johnny Depp’s career retrospective isn’t going to be easy-listening. A baffling summation of everything the New York hardcore mini-riot have ever recorded – baffling because there can’t be many people around the world who will have the gaping holes in their lives filled by this compilation – Manthology is nothing if not comprehensive.
And there’s no doubting GFJD’s ability to boil down a hefty dose of rage and expunge it through guitars and throats, as on the likes of Cumpassion (from their one full-length to date, The Politics of Cruelty). Very Little Happens Between 3 and 4 in the Morning: In Which We Out Paul Stanley shows lead growler Marty Leopard has both a caustic sense of humour and a jagged yowl that sounds like his throat is a mess of cut glass and nails, as does the barmy exercise in screwing with listeners Hey Sailor!, which consists of a jaunty piano line tripping over itself and Leopard screaming “Hey!” over and over until, presumably, he passes out.
On No Teeth Thumbs Up, from their charmingly titled EP Blood: The Natural Lubricant, though, the sledgehammer-like approach to subtlety reaches a new peak. Basically an impenetrable string of obscenities shouted at ear-bleed volume, it’s at once utterly disposable and the fundamental point of GFJD: if you’re 15 and even the slightest bit angry with the world it’ll be a lightning bolt of brilliance; if not, it could easily be passed over as a terminal racket.
One of the principle problems with a 31-track compilation is that, especially with music as abrasive and purposely relentless as this, it’s hard to maintain attention throughout. By the time the Erotically Charged Dance Songs for the Desperate EP material rolls around, Leopard’s vocals have started to coagulate into one blast of white noise. GFJD are extremely upfront about their intentions to challenge boundaries and redefine opinions concerning but not limited to “sexual politics, censorship, public in/decency, international relations and gender and religious divisions” – noble aims all.
But if they’re so forward-thinking why not write some new songs instead of re-releasing these?