Generator Ohm’s debut album Upon the Me Om I is all about the guitars. Beginning as a collaboration between Willie Chen and Ernest D’amaso, who not only wrote and sang the vocals on their material, but also played guitar and bass, Generator Ohm expanded into a trio with the addition of drummer Mike Morales (who was also working with EndAnd). With a sound that has been described as post-grunge, the band’s publicity describes its influences as bands like The Pixies, At the Drive In, Nirvana, Sonic Youth and Fugazi. Certainly the new album is testimony to those influences.
While their music can be energetically primal, their pronouncements about their artistic intentions in their publicity can come across as pretentious, couched in language that comes close to parody. You have to wonder just how far their tongues are in their cheeks. In the manifesto that appears on PureVolume, they speak of the new album as “an aural panacea against the spirit of sloth settling in digital sediment…[It’s] a genre-bending collection of songs. They tell us, “We take the day on our backs, and unpack the burdens at night to seek the fruits of a bard’s labor.” There is something rotten in the state of music today and this is a band that’s ready to set things right with music that is revolutionary and revelatory, or so they say.
It is all well and good to have ambition. It is all well and good, even essential, to aim at developing a voice of one’s own. It is a mistake to write manifestos. Play great music and let the music do your talking for you. And while the music on this debut album has its inventive moments, I’m not sure it justifies all this eloquent prose. Listening to the album, it just doesn’t sound as revolutionary as all that.
On the other hand if you ignore the band’s publicity and let the music speak for itself, you can’t help but be impressed by the guitar work on tracks like “Lemming Shuffle,” “They Can See Us,” and the infectious anthem “Youth in Arms.” Check out the video for “Marginal Hop” and you’ll get a good read on what this band is doing.