A nightcap on a career that stretches longer than the road ahead.
Boris apparently intended this release to be a kind of glorious send off, a nightcap on a career that stretches longer than the road ahead. The Japanese unit wrote and recorded enough material that three albums could have resulted. Paring that down (for now) to a single recording, the group has issued an LP that reminds us that, though it would be easy to suggest this is just a doom ‘n’ gloom, noise ‘n’ groove unit, there remain other elements lurking just below (or just above) the surface.
There have long been competing narratives within the band, including sometimes radically different versions of the same album issued in a relatively short space of time. Add to that the Gensho/Rock Dream collaboration with Merzbow which allowed listeners to absorb no fewer than two individual sonic realities at once, and the picture becomes blurry enough to remain intriguing, focused enough to have a purpose. After all, when Boris rocks best, one detects strong contours of composition and a keen sense of melody.
Though none of this could have been planned as a tribute to fallen hero Chris Cornell, there are moments on this effort where one can’t help but think of SST/early A&M Soundgarden, a group bent on sonic adventure at any cost but unwilling (or unable) to forsake the form’s saner, more appealing elements along the way. Strip away the feedback of “Deadsong,” pick up the tempo and mix the vocals just a little higher and it becomes the kind of song that could have buoyed grunge along for another month or two. In fact, one doesn’t have even work that hard with “Absolutego,” where the more extreme elements are already stripped away, the heavy but infectious tune splayed out naked like a TV dinner before our very ears.
Dear doesn’t reach or strive for the (relative) commerciality of Pink but it doesn’t turn its back on those tendencies either. Nor is this a turning away from those weirder moments. “Kagero” gets down to the business of low-frequency/high distortion worship rather quickly, becoming a haunting, earth-scorching bit of nastiness that remains among one of the more hallucinatory cuts in the Boris oeuvre. (At least as much of it as any single living being can absorb in this lifetime.) “Biotope,” meanwhile, is appealing enough that one can create a 120 Minutes-ready video for it in the mind.
It’s that version/vision of Boris that seems most appealing here, including on the chainsaw-through-your-soul leads of the 12-minute “Dystopia (Vanishing Point),” which would have been almost as tantalizing as part of a standalone EP with this record’s titular piece. It’s in those final moments that the band sounds most committed and visionary, equal to its reputation and committed to breaking ground that if not exactly new then remains just as exciting and soul-piercing.
Lesser moments, such as “The Power” and “Memento Mori” don’t take us to many places we haven’t been before or places that are as revelatory as we know Boris can be.
This can’t be the final statement from our Japanese heroes, not because it’s not a jaw-dropping classic, but because, above all else, Dear reminds us how badly we need Boris and, perhaps, how badly Boris needs us.