Sunday, 30 October 2016

Cunt Machine - Yellow Discipline

Provenance: For many years a rather unsettling poster named Yellow Discipline lurked on the music forum I frequented, emerging from the shadows occasionally to communicate something weird or unsettling. The man obviously had some strange peccadilloes, notwithstanding his penchant for giving himself full-body paint makeovers.

Yet it took an original song competition to fully reveal the hidden talents of Dead Billy, Ohio's most infamous son. Poking out like a severed limb amidst the fluff rock and pop-country was 'Lollipop', which wormed its way into your ear with the repeated refrain 'Kissy shy, shy / Oooh, kissy kissy shy'. Sadly the YouTube video is no longer available but you can hear it using and I recommend it thoroughly.

If that wasn't enough, shortly thereafter in 2011 Yellow Discipline announced he had finished his first album, Songs About Hatefucking, and that he'd distribute it to his fellow posters upon request for free. The album was great, and three years later he repeated the gesture with his sophomore effort Cunt Machine. Yellow Discipline remains a murky and mysterious figure to many, and even though I think I may know his name, I am both grateful that he's maintained his creepy mystique and that there's an ocean and a great deal of land between us.

Review: One of the defining aspects of outsider music is that it tends to be created by loners, or at the very least, solo performers. Although the Shaggs are a wonderful exception to the rule, most outsider endeavours shine because of the singularity of vision and purpose, irrespective of how odd the execution may be. And here we have one that shines very darkly; one would be careful to throw around a word like 'execution' too carelessly. The liner notes say all songs were written, recorded and performed ("at night") by Yellow Discipline, and instruct us to admire at maximum volume. At least he's moved from Dead Billy (not a real place, by the way) but to Akron, Ohio, albeit the address given is 52 Bukakke Holocaust Drive.

Now, here's the damndest thing. If Yellow Discipline could somehow reign in his unruly id he could be the next Desmond Child. It isn't just hipster contrarianism when I say that Cunt Machine is one of the catchiest albums I've acquired in the last fifteen or so years. The wrinkle here is that instead of sappy love songs, Yellow Discipline writes death disco about setting a girl's face on fire. His songs are better than anything Child or Linda Perry and their ilk have ever been able to conjure up, but their success may partly due to the fact that they don't write songs called 'Rape Whistle' or 'I, Pervert'.

This is as good as it gets for someone toiling alone in their sex dungeon. Yellow Discipline doesn't have a great voice in the traditional sense but treats it with effects to make it sound weird and disembodied. The hooks are massive, courtesy of punchy guitar work and spooky keyboards playing repetitive but catchy riffs that bury themselves into your cerebral cortex like a splatter-movie hatchet. 'Little Girls', 'Cunt Machine' and the aforementioned 'I, Pervert' sound like White Zombie if they were recorded by the ghost of Joe Meek. There is one slow song, 'Naughty Girl', but the almost pastoral tambourine and acoustic guitar are offset by a keening, asphyxiated keyboard riff. Of course, the lyrics are also pretty grim, and just in case you thought you were listening to Caravan for a moment, as the music dies down you're met with a strangulated 'fuck you all', close to the microphone. Close to your ear.

But my goodness, you can even dance to this stuff. 'God's Gift' is the best song Billy Idol never recorded, and will never record, because the chorus is 'Yellow don't fuck me mellow / Yellow pretty please / Turn my pussy to jello'. Almost as brilliant is 'Love Letters In Blood' - a rollicking, slippery horrorcore toe-tapper (sample lyric: 'Every demon in this town / Screams without a sound / Just like our love'). Honestly, it's absolutely fantastic. The whole damn thing is a triumph, a sick, violent, messy triumph, and it's the real thing. We're not talking the sleazy demimonde of early Ultravox! or the writing of Hubert Selby Jr - this is the stuff the guy in the sex shop goes out the back to retrieve. This is the album that's most likely to be called 'exhibit A' in a court proceeding.

Who knows? Perhaps Yellow Discipline is like Alice Cooper, attending Bible study and playing golf on his days off. Very few musical bogeymen endure without the mask slipping - when I was growing up, Marilyn Manson was the ghoul parents were most afraid of, but the God of Fuck turned out to be a geek who couldn't wait to show up in Sons of Anarchy. The truly subversive, it could be argued, never make the mainstream in the first place - and that's why mention of GG Allin will draw blank expressions from most people. As Yellow Discipline chooses to be elusive it is no difficulty to maintain this persona of arch-pervert for his mostly online fanbase - if, indeed, Yellow Discipline is a work. I'm not so sure. If it is, I have to admire his conviction. When he's singing his sado-sexual gutter poetry, there's an evident intensity - almost an ecstasy - in the quavering voice, a palpable relish at enunciating every one of his fell desires.

At one point a fair bit of Yellow Discipline's work was on YouTube, but for one reason or another has been removed. You can, however, hear both Songs About Hatefucking and this one, Cunt Machine, on Spotify [update February 2021: they're gone from Spotify]. Sweet dreams.

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