By Divine Right: Bless this Mess: Pitchfork Review

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Cover Art By Divine Right
Bless this Mess
[Nettwerk]
Rating: 1.8

A few months ago, I was given not one, but two By Divine Right CDs to review by the Big Scary Boss here at Pitchfork. (No one knows much about the Boss, only that he's very big, his office is always dark and he eats bullets and shits ice cream. After seeing that you don't get too nosy.) Well, I'm a loyal worker drone, so I listened to the first CD (a reissue of 1997's All Hail Discordia) right away, labeled it flaccid, retro-inspired rock and tried to move on with my life. But it wasn't easy. If All Hail Discordia wasn't indie music at its worst, then it was certainly music at its most annoying. The foul smelling fluff music of By Divine Right continued to haunt me because deep down I knew that, sooner or later, I'd have to listen to it all over again.

Well, here I am again, dealing with these goofballs once more. This time it's their 1999 release, Bless this Mess, that's on the operating table. I thought about holding a grudge against this CD and its makers for the musical water torture that they'd previously put me through, but I decided not to. Sure, Discordia left a foul taste in my mouth, but I figured why not be the bigger man and approach this record with the slate clean? I mean, it's been two years, so these guys had to learn something about rock and roll since then, right?

Actually, all By Divine Right have apparently learned is how to perfect their sappy, milk-and-water brand of indie rock. Every stupid thing that plagued All Hail Discordia is also present on Bless this Mess, and present in fucking spades. Sloppy songwriting packed with irritating harmonies, singing about silly, insincere subject matter-- it's all present and accounted for; By Divine Right is truly in rare form on this record.

But what's most bothersome of all is that, not only does By Divine Right seem to be completely obvious to the fact that these are the types of things that get your CD sent right into the bargain bin, but they also think this kind of "we make rock goofy" behavior is their big selling point. They constantly play up and emphasize their less-than-serious musical characteristics like that annoying fat guy at the party that keeps making jokes about how fat he is. He thinks it's funny, even cute. Well, it isn't. And when it's a band doing it, and you're paying for the end product, it's a damn shame.

It's not that By Divine Right is that bad a band, even. The music on Bless this Mess shows some major improvement over Discordia with just a short two years between the two. Overall more catchy and creative, the music on this album does showcase the maturing and progression that only those who are truly into their craft ever exhibit. This doesn't change the fact that they're more preoccupied with goofing around in the studio than making a single decent album. Some bands can pull off this kind of flippancy, but when you're walking that thin line between "talented musician" and "retard with a guitar" like these guys are, that lack of effort shows. The classic indie rock complaint applies here: these guys just aren't trying, and it shows.

Surprisingly, a scant few of these tracks have a hint of genuine groove to them, and could possibly be keen songs if it weren't for the band's painfully watery vocals or their Van Halen-on-Lithium guitar parts coming in and ruining everything. On "5 Bucks" (the only song from the album that I remember by name, mainly because of its horrible lyrics), they wait until they have a nice, bluesy grind firmly in place before Jose Contreras (the man responsible) lets his asinine warble loose all over the track, proudly spouting off such classic "I wrote this when I was drunk at a frat house" lines as "I got soul/ I got soul/ I'm gonna kiss a girl named Rock and Roll." Given that By Divine Right wouldn't know Rock and Roll if she broke into their house and beat up their children, I'll leave you to work out the irony of that statement on your own.

Yes, the lyrics are truly a thing unto themselves. Few bands have the sheer testicular mass to pen lyrics as dumb as By Divine Right manages to conjure for every album. If the above example from "5 Bucks" isn't enough to convince you, wrap your brain around this, from the opening track, "Come for a Ride:" "Come for a ride, y'all/ Come feel all right/ I'm getting high, y'all / Come for a ride/ (Chorus:) Aw, now wait/ Aw, now wait/ Aw, now wait/ Aw, now wait." Myself, I think the fourth "Aw, now wait" really makes that chorus shine.

I didn't mean to write this much about Bless this Mess, mainly because I didn't think there was all that much to say about it. Basically, I'm just repeating the same stuff I did for All Hail Discordia with new examples. Funny, I guess that's what By Divine Right did, too.

-Steven Byrd