Stabscotch - Prison Jar

I really despise the term "avant-garde" as a genre sometimes. For example, why call black midi's Hellfire "avant-prog" when it replicates what many other albums in the same genre have already done before? The fact that we're categorizing music as "avant-garde" because it follows a specific style of music that was already thoroughly explored many decades ago is so contradictory it makes my head hurt.

Stabscotch is your friendly reminder that despite my complaints above, we frankly have no choice but to maintain avant-garde a proper categorization; some music really is just avant-garde. "Avant-garde" as a catch-all term for when a work of art truly accomplishes something unprecedented may be rare, but it does happen. And when it does, will you care?

On first listen, I thought this record was way too much to handle, and way too dense to be actually enjoyable. That's the normal reaction to processing any avant-garde work of art for the first time (see: Igor Stravinsky). If an "avant-garde" album is skyrocketing to the top of charts after being released by a major record label and is getting a yellow-flannel review from the world's most popular and profitable music critic, that should give you pause. But Prison Jar is not that album. Prison Jar is the anathema to what the capitalist machine demands, not due to a lack of talent and charisma, but because Stabscotch takes all of their excessive skill and compiles it into the most vulgar record I have ever heard. The way this album bounces between sludgy jazz punk to progressive electronic to emotive shoegaze to nerdy metal is dizzying enough as it is; the extremely provocative and hyper-sexual lyrics aggressively spewed on top makes it all the more perplexing. Listening to this record is like,

"Oh.. oh... oh.. well... oh... what.. oh..."

It will catch you off guard about 10 times per song, not in a cheap jump-scare sort of way but in a hard-earned, dynamic, and creative way that keeps you on your toes for the full 50-minute runtime (if you have the stamina for it that is). This may all sound pretentious, but I promise you it's not. The band is clearly having a ton of fun performing these god-scorned concoctions, and the absolute glee will rub off on any perceptive listener. It's humorous not only in its lyrics but simply because it's insane a band as talented as Stabscotch would choose to use their talent to make a record as impenetrable, unprofitable, and at times unpleasant as this one. I probably wouldn't be returning to this so often if it weren't for the fact that somehow, I'm getting these incomprehensible songs stuck in my head throughout the day.

All in all, this is some of the most fun I've had listening to music all year; it's also some of the most perplexing music I've heard all year, as well as some of the most inspirational. It has thoroughly accomplished its job as a punk record that puts the modern music industry complex to shame with its brutal assault on the hyper-sanitized logic of creative capitalism. It is a firm reminder why music as an artform must persist regardless of the system's incentives to destroy it. Good album!

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