Demo EP

Disarm are a curious band that functions in the gap between the past and the present. They describe themselves as ‘sleazy’ but the way they approach composition makes them essentially punk, even though there is still variety on this EP, and one song, ‘Too Much is Never Enough’, could have easily been written by a 1990s indie band. The guitar solo on this track (on par with the way this song is composed) gives an impression of a tune which is rooted in 1990s indie – a kind of solo that does not require an awful lot of skill but which relies on plain sustained notes and simple repetition, and that, of course, removes the song thousands of miles away from an association with sleaze.

Overall, the execution of the songs on this EP is relatively heavy, but this still doesn’t disguise the fact that the axis of this band’s language is a straight-forward punk format, as well as the reality that, for Disarm the 1990s didn’t pass unnoticed. Apart from indie influences just mentioned, there are also references to industrial rock on this EP, ‘Black Can Man’ bearing some traits of this genre.

It’s rather difficult to understand why Disarm think they play sleaze, unless you stretch the definition of the term to the point where it loses its original meaning. Sleaze has always been about catchy tunes and this is exactly what made it the most widespread rock genre for almost a decade. If you look beyond the surface, it wasn’t the image that made sleaze so immensely popular for all those years, but really the ability of bands like Motley Crue, Ratt, Skid Row and a plethora of others to turn out the kind of songs that you had to hear once to remember forever. In a way, those bands were running a high tech business of manufacturing a perfect addictive substance – tunes that would stick in your brain for the rest of your life to make you want to hear them again, again and again. That, combined with flashy, polished, first class guitar technique made the genre the best product on the rock market for ten years.

With Disarm, these two main qualities – catchy songs and serious guitar skill – are somehow lacking. To give the band a credit, ‘By Any Means Necessary’, the opening track of this EP, has a great gang chorus that makes you sit up and then, obviously, sing along, but that, I’m afraid, is the only hook this song had to offer, and for this I blame the punk format that the band has chosen as the backbone of their songwriting. A punk song structure is inflexible and is extremely difficult to use in the service of invention. It relies on repetition for its impact, and repetition and replication within the given setup is what restricts this band’s creativity and prevents them from developing truly original ideas. The result is that their songs sound ritualistic and repetitive and, unfortunately, lack memorable melodies, seriously good riffs or hooks.

I have listened to this EP eight times now and all I can remember is the chorus of the opening track. The rest of the EP comes through as too generic and somewhat two-dimensional to become really memorable.

The kind of approach that the guitarist in this band displays is another reason why some people would be cautions to call Disarm a sleaze band. He obviously has ability and understanding of his instrument, but to be a sleaze rock guitarist you have to strive toward different sort of goals in your playing. To the 1980s players technique and knowledge of theory ( both of which Disarm’s guitarist will still have to work on) were obviously important, but what made so many of them truly amazing musicians was their belief that a solo should carry a distinctive message, as well as their ability to make what they had to say sound convincing and capable of taking the listener somewhere. Sleaze guitarists never quite replaced meaning by bare energy, and this is the fundamental difference between sleaze and punk. For this reason I am not entirely sure that you can make a stylistic hybrid of punk and sleaze really work within the framework of one given song, but I guess this is something for Disarm to work out if they decide to continue relying on punk as their primary source.

To sum it all up, what this band presents are essentially games with the inherited culture. While their fairly uncomplicated music, which relies a great deal on the past genres, is admissible in a band that is just starting out, it is clear that soon they will have to develop their own sound, their own voice and their own unique musical ideas. Their artistic survival will depend on originality and it remains to be seen if they can break away from the pattern and to start writing music which will be truly their own.

Guest article from Alyssa O.

Written by Guest Writers on

Between 2003 and 2009, [the-mag] had regular contributors from music correspondents covering their local scene. You'll find them all in the guest writers section. The specific writer is mentioned at the bottom of each article.

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