Sudden Infant - Buddhist Nihilism
Harbinger Sound. 189CD/LP
When the Great Big Bumper Book of Noise eventually gets written, Joke Lanz will no doubt have a chapter all of his own. In the same chapter there’ll be mention of the fact that Lanz was once an integral cog in the Schimpfluch Gruppe and that his artistic talents also seep in to the visual arts. He plays turntables too, a veritable Dave Double-Deck.
After almost three decades of sonic mayhem Sudden Infant expanded from being a solo Lanz [with the occasional collaborator] to a full blown three piece band now aided by the phenomenal bass player Christian Weber and the Jim Keltner like Alexander Babel on drums. Their first release was 2014’s Wölfi’s Nightmare and much to my chagrin I didn’t like it. I thought maybe this was something that Lanz needed to get out of his system, something he needed to work though or try out just to see if it worked. I felt that he’d brought too much of his previous sound in to the group format and that it jarred. There was too much going on and Roli Mosimann’s production made them seem like a halfway house between Sudden Infant and Marylin Manson. Not my cuppa char old bean. Those almost trademark noise jolts that Lanz had used to such good effect in his solo outings were plastered all over Wölfi’s Nightmare like random shots from an elephant gun. I flinched, cowered down and hoped it would be over soon. Lots of other people liked it and the reviews I read were positive so I put it down to me and moved on.
Four years down the line and Buddhist Nihilism arrives and with it reservations of my own. Its now obvious that this is no short term three piece project and after a first listen its also obvious that the sound is in a different league. Out go the random electric noise jolts and in come twelve tracks of quotidian observation, introspection and a Cat Stevens cover. Bet you didn’t see that one coming. Don’t worry there’s no tinkly piano. But there is humour. As in ‘Tourists’ where Lanz loses his patience with Berlin’s aimless zombie tourists and ‘George Clooney’ a track complete with Whacko Jacko ‘hee hees’ and a list of shouted out names, surely the only track ever written that mentions Underwood, George Clooney and Martin Luther King in the lyric.
The set up is simple; Babel’s laconic drums, Weber’s irresistible bass while Lanz’s vocal delivery, which for me at least, has always been a big part of Sudden Infant. It may seem an obvious thing to say but his spoken voice, that perfectly executed English coming from a Swiss national gives his words and delivery an appeal all of its own. He can obviously sing but the spoken word delivery is what does it for me, that pointed finger, those dead set eyes, that lawnmower haircut ...
Weber and Babel take each song in several directions at once with quick stops/starts and driving punk inspired rumbles and even though these twelve tracks are structured as songs this is no verse, chorus, verse type of release. Chuck in some Lanz electronics and you have a release that will appeal to both the noise head in your family and the one who likes something to whistle along to while cruising down the autobahn. That Cat Stevens cover is a defining moment with Lanz deconstructing Stevens original delivering the vocals like a maniac, Weber and Babel going at it like an improv duo with a seven second snippet of the original at its end just to remind you of what it once sounded like.
‘100 Word Mantra’ is the one I’d like to see Sudden Infant on Top of The Pops with, this in which Lanz intones a mantra while dancing like a Tuvan round a campfire, the rest of the band joining in as the pace picks up only to break into a litany of fashion brand names. I was hoping that ‘228’ was going to be a pean to an as yet unscheduled Metro bus service that runs between Cleckheaton and Basel,
‘228, its never too late’
but it wasn’t, like ‘100 Word Mantra’ the meaning is a deep one: existentialism, the scourge of materialism, all the important stuff.
Some call it Dada Punk, some call it Dada Noise Rock but I wouldn’t know about that. I know I like it though.