Noise Pop: Fuck yeah

Pub date February 20, 2008
SectionMusicSectionMusic Features

Most articles and reviews about Holy Fuck begin with some comment about whether the band’s music did or did not make the writer exclaim, "Holy fuck!" So insert your own exclamatory joke about the group’s name here, and let’s move past the moniker and go on to the music.

Holy Fuck straddle the rock and electronic divide: they mash together techno beats, dirty lo-fi electronics, and loud kinetic-rock rhythms. It’s a perfect of-the-moment sound — the type that indie rock kids love to dance to, balanced with enough chaotic experimentalism to appeal to noise rock and electronic fans. We live in weird times, and this band gets the times.

Perversely, as bad as the war and the economy are, kids are having a great deal of innocent fun these days. You can catch a sweaty, spazzy groove to the not-so-faux-naïf, party-starting sounds of Video Hippos. Or you can bang your head to Holy Fuck’s embodiment of that dance-party spirit.

The songs on their latest record, LP (XL), drive forward kraut rock–style, but the dirty layers of electronic noise on top of their propulsive rhythms have a purer rock vibe: they’re raw, primitive, and energetic. On my MP3 player, "Choppers," the last track on LP, fits snugly up against my next loaded disc, a Can anthology. The sound of Holy Fuck’s recorded output lies somewhere between Trans Am and Suicide, although they don’t stake out the confrontationally icy ground of the latter nor cloak themselves in the distancing self-awareness of the former. Instead, onstage a few weeks ago at the Great American Music Hall, Holy Fuck bopped around unselfconsciously, with quick-change mixes, effects-pedal tweaks, and keyboard jams. It’s a friendly, accessible show, performed by a band dedicated to making electronic music without laptops or sequencers. In fact, not only will you not find a laptop on Holy Fuck’s stage, but you’ll also discover instruments that come with a junkyard aesthetic: film modulators, and a Casio mouth organ.

The group has emerged from a Toronto scene with a vast and supportive music community, one that embraces many genres and in which most performers have more than one musical project going. Although Holy Fuck don’t want to be perceived, as the group’s Brian Borcherdt puts it over the phone, as "hippie lovefest" musicians, their writing process has been somewhat loose, improvisatory, and collaborative. The band has also included a rotating cast of Toronto musicians, which has led some to dub the ensemble an "evil supergroup," Borcherdt says. Still, regardless of what they play and whom they play with, Holy Fuck remain an exciting live band — though I’m still not going to use the easy exclamatory.


With A Place to Bury Strangers, White Denim, and Veil Veil Varnish

Feb. 29, 9 p.m., $10

Bottom of the Hill

1233 17th St., SF

(415) 621-4455