new music: laughing man’s ‘be black baby’ is an art-punk atom bomb #soundcheck

December 2, 2014

Following in the grand DC tradition of Smart Went Crazy, Nation of Ulysses, and The Dismemberment Plan, art-punk band Laughing Man mixes punk attitude with clipped time signatures, dissonant chords, and social criticism. Their latest record Be Black Baby is inspired by a film about radical black performance art, and showcases a band that thrives on pushing buttons.

Words by Nathan Leigh, AFROPUNK Contributor

From the voice clips in “Theater of Revolt” parts 1 – 3, the band sets their thesis: dissonant sound collages with abstractly sarcastic musings on American blackness spliced between propuslive art-punk jams. “Brilliant Colors” is a raw, fiery track, with singer Brandon Moses invoking motherly wisdom and concern for his well-being, waving it away with a tired eye roll and shrugged shoulders; “my mom, she used to pray for me to come home safe.” The band gets anthemic on “The Veri” exploding into the chorus “if it feels right / I know you will do whatever you believe in / Just like I believe in you.”

Between the frustration and sarcasm, moments like the stunning “Nagasaki” find a lot of truth in the way a person can tear through you like an atom bomb. Laughing Man’s gift for noise and dissonance gives an otherwise beautiful song the sense of chaos and destruction lurking in the seams of any relationship. “Body Cop” bursts out of a declaration to shake up the “Silent Middle Class” with a hauntingly dissonant heavy track. Midway through the giant sweeping chords, it switches into lofi mode, evoking 60’s garage “I’m talking about a new kind of heartache” Moses declares. The song doesn’t so much end as devolve into shouts of a farewell greeting “be black, baby! Be black!” Like everything on Be Black Baby, it’s strange, kind of goofy, haunting, confrontational, and profound.