I Set My Friends on Fire
You Can’t Spell Slaughter Without Laughter (Epitaph)
You Can’t Spell Slaughter Without Laughter seems designed to test the listener’s tolerance for a number of things. These include, but are not limited to: throat-shredding screamo vocals and equally larynx-lacerating death-metal growling, skinny rocker boys doing crunk, gratuitous application of Auto-Tune, and ironic song titles. Individually, each of those factors is highly irritating; taken together, they’re also highly irritating. Against all odds, though, You Can’t Spell Slaughter Without Laughter is hilariously—even brilliantly—listenable.
As easy as it would be to dismiss I Set My Friends on Fire’s debut as an elaborate joke on the part of Matt Mihana (vocals and lyrics) and Nabil Moo (everything else), the songs are too well-crafted for that. Well, okay, the duo’s howling version of Soulja Boy Tell ’Em’s “Crank That (Soulja Boy)” is undoubtedly a piss-take, and song titles like “Beauty Is in the Eyes of the Beerholder” and “Reese’s Pieces, I Don’t Know Who John Cleese Is?” speak to a certain less-than-mature sense of humour. But dig deeper and there is much to be taken seriously here.
“Things That Rhyme With Orange” starts off with some techno doodling before kicking into a full-bore pop-punk number boasting a soaring chorus and lyrics exploring the unattainable dream of universal acclaim: “It has to be a unanimous determination/Because one opinion would be a pointless appreciation.”
What “Ravenous, Ravenous Rhinos” is about is anyone’s guess, but the song’s searing metalcore attack hits like a hammer to the skull—well, up until the 1:39 mark, that is, when it makes a jarring left turn into Auto-Tuned synthpop for a few bars, before closing out with a brief deathcore coda.
Elsewhere, “HXC 2-Step”, which is set to a Dirty South beat that the Ying Yang Twins wouldn’t turn down, finds Mihana and Moo bellowing dance steps (and crude sexual suggestions) like hypercaffeinated drill sergeants.
And “But the Nuns Are Watching”¦” is a gut-shot salvo devastating enough to appease anyone who ever wished to hear the one-arm-scissor assault of At the Drive-In mashed up with extreme metal and the electro earnestness of the Postal Service.
Admittedly, on paper that looks like the recipe for a migraine-inducing mess. And that’s exactly what You Can’t Spell Slaughter Without Laughter will sound like to a lot of people. But those willing to embrace a noisy, ambitious, self-indulgent, and downright weird record will find a lot to love.
Download This: “Ravenous, Ravenous Rhinos”