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June 9, 2010

Book: The Locust’s mystery remains buried

From The Graveyard of the Arousal Industry

From The Graveyard of the Arousal Industry
By Justin Pearson. Soft Skull Press; 208 pgs., $14.95.

The Locust is a many splendored thing. This is band that could easily contend for the weirdest ever conceived: They play a bizarre spazz-pastiche of thrash, space rock and grating electronic noise. Shying away from choruses or a cohesive mission statement, the band moralizes as much as Fugazi, but without adding politics directly to the lyrics. They instead do things like avoid playing in Clear Channel venues and by wearing tight-fitting costumes and dresses on stage to “accentuate the homo-erotic nature of hardcore music.” It’s hard to judge a band that plays the Andy Kaufman of the hardcore scene, but you may get a clue about their status in the obscene amount of attention paid in this book to the violent response given to The Locust at their shows. Often referred to as hardcore or thrash metal, The Locust haven’t been able to find a comfortable genre, because they don’t want to. They want to constantly challenge people and, in the words of author Justin Pearson, change the way people think about music.

To be upfront: I have been a diehard Locust fan for a long time. I think they are the furthest reaches of what it is that hardcore can offer the truly experimental palette, and they create a kind of music that exists within its own logic (think “Alice in Wonderland”) that cannot be discounted as random, but instead must be faced as “challenging.” I honestly think they are fun above all else, a truly energizing alien-sounding barrage that somehow rocks your entire world.

When I saw bassist Justin Pearson had a book out, I cringed at the word memoir but hoped it was tongue-in-cheek. My expectations were high. I wanted to see Pearson do with writing what he had done with music: redefine it, or at the very least, show the same creativity the song titles bear to prove it isn’t all just random gibberish, that there is a cohesion to be found. I wanted a peek at the brains behind the operation, but what I found instead was a bunch of talk about situations rather than a presentation of them, and, of course, no discussion of ideas, just lots of happenings.

Having said that, any diehard Locust fan should have no problem breezing through this book in a matter of hours. It’s fun and informative, filling out the thrash scene and violence-filled childhood of Pearson, but it will not pick apart or speak about albums or give any sort of deeper thesis to take away from the band. In “From the Graveyard,” The Locust is treated like any normal rock band trying to make it big instead of the effeminate, idiosyncratic face-melters they are. There is no great revelation here, just a fun run-through of the childhood and band history of Pearson, a troubled kid who got his ass kicked from the age of 14 on. It’s as if he is standing up at an NA meeting and joylessly listing off all of his exploits. But bear in mind: The exploits are all quality stuff. From drummer Gabe Serbian puking in his beer and pouring it over his head in between songs, to antagonistic fans spray-painting The Locust’s van and trying to fight them on stage. This is a band that not only faked a four-way gay love affair simply so they could appear on “Jerry Springer,” but also one that punctuates their songs with variable amounts of grating noise, the length of time being determined by this equation: T=(N)X, where N = noise, T = time played, and X = the current anger/confusion level of the audience as converted into a number.

I don’t want to give everything away (the anecdotes are the best part), but I also don’t want you to get me wrong on this book: It’s fun as hell, but keep in mind it’s a beach book for a bitter punker. While I may remain disappointed by what could have been a serious inside look at some incredibly dense and creative music, I still can’t bash the thing. It raises a great question that is arguably more interesting than a manifesto could have been: Do the members of The Locust know how absolutely strange their music is, or are they just a happy thrash accident?