What this post is really about is an excellent record in the style that this blog (I guess) centres upon - mid-90's emo/hardcore. This is one of my top three favourite split releases, along with the 1998 Leatherface/Hot Water Music split and 2006's Ampere/Sinaloa (the latter can be found on Zen and the Art of Face Punching, and the former on this blog here... although the link is now down, I'd be happy to re-up it if anyone wants). Originally posted as an aside, I've made reference to it several times since, and now reckon the time has come to give it a post of its own.
Here's what I first wrote at the end of my Slint live review way back in August:
"...this 12'' record was released one year after Glenn/Rhoda, sits 3 CDs in front of Spiderland in my own collection, is deservedly one of Andy Radin's 'top emo records', and is an excellent split, combining two major bands with differing yet complementary styles, and indeed containing some of the best songs ever released by either group: the Shotmaker-Maximillian Colby split (as if this post needed any more Slint worship!)."
I have to admit, as I did then, that I don't own the actual release and just constructed it from the respective discographies. However, it's the music that matters most... I did find this originally on eBay, but Google searches today turned up nothing. A seller's picture from back then allowed me to make my own stab at the artwork (top), but if anyone has a photo or scan of the original, it would make a lovely post-Christmas present!
Shotmaker-Maximillian Colby combines the heavy, fraught and repetitive hardcore of the Ottawa, Canada band with the equally heavy but more Slinty and mathy sound of their American counterparts from Harrisonburg, Virginia. Both groups broke up within couple of years, leaving sizable (for the genre) discographies - Shotmaker's, two discs, Maximillian Colby, one - as well as leading on into further important hardcore groups Three Penny Opera and Sleepytime Trio, respectively. It's that loud-fast mixture of variety and single-mindedness which was, paradoxically, the style of emo:
"Another perfect split record that captures everything about its time. MaxCo combined the DC beauty and fury with a Slinty sense of when to shut the hell up and listen to pins dropping. Shotmaker played rocked-out emo like they were pissed as hell and wanted desperately to play fast but somehow couldn't"
The Shotmaker side of the release begins with the pounding heaviness of 'The Game', rolling through their characteristic rumbling sound (until you get used to them, that's sometimes all you can hear in Shotmaker songs) and breakdowns into chugging, cyclical riffs that are almost metallic. Almost.
"and this ship must sink... and we must sink... this ship"
I'm assuming that's a commentary on capitalism. The style continues without much let-up for the next four songs; there's not much I can do to improve on Andy Radin's description, above. 'Blocks and Channels' starts off slow for about twenty seconds, and then launchs back into the spiralling, shouting hardcore of the preceding songs. As blend77 says:
"[Shotmaker] are also early progenitors of the current emo explosion, with their loud soft approach, complex guitar passages and screamy vocals. Though this is really just hardcore at its embroiled, impassioned best."
Shotmaker kind of follows the melody-through-chaos approach of other hardcore/emo bands- slightly like, say, the Swing Kids - and approaching at some times the full-on screamo sound. Melodies sit on top of the wall-of-sound guitars, and the rhythm is king. Listen to their final song, 'Newest Sound System'. The bass line throbs and wobbles heavily, the drums snap in and out, until the song explodes into the crushing rhythms of guitar noise:
"It's too loud, no-one listens/When we work the soundsystem"
Maximillian Colby's side is a collection of mostly instrumental, heavily Slint-influenced songs. In contrast I guess to the organic whole of the Shotmaker songs, these songs are disparate and fragmented. The opener, 'Last Name', strikes with sparse, heavy bursts of very Slinty guitar before it launches into its own explosion of Mohinder-like frantic screaming:
"What's your name?! What's your number?!"
The second song is even Slintier, recognizable not only by the very tuneful if minimal opening guitarwork but also by the eerily (or should that be spiderly?) similar guitar fuzz and disjointed chords. However, Maximillian Colby aren't solely a Slint rip-off; for a start, they aren't quite as frustratingly disjointed as the comparable Slint album, Tweez, and don't attempt to take their songs to the same rarified heights as Spiderland - with the exception perhaps of the split closer, 'Right Right Left', which is as repetititously minimalist as they come, but still suitably catharctic for a true emo album. Like the Lovitt site says:
"Maximillian Colby fashioned seminal works on their own terms. Neither purely aggressive nor depressingly somber, Maximillian Colby's music creates soundscapes that can rupture the eardrums and soon after lull the mind. As a band, they melded crisp whispers with clamor drenched in feedback to dizzying, cathartic effect...Maximillian Colby were all too happy to wring the utmost out of something as deceptively innocuous as a pair of notes, exploring their many inherently possible rhythms, dynamics, and effects."
In sum, this record won't change your life: unless you haven't happened to have heard these bands before.