Seismic-Sound Album Review: Erik Blood – “Touch Screens” By Blake Madden
Great artists neither borrow nor steal; they make soup. The bones of their influences become the stock, the singular flavors are added later. Erik Blood has kept his ears open for ingredients for 35 years. Motown. Krautrock. Britpop and hip hop. Kraftwerk. John Carpenter film scores. Cocteau Twins’ hazy, endless guitars. Madonna’s sex-as-art-as-pop. Kevin Shields and the art of whammy bar maintenance. Teaspoons of some, handfuls of others, all creating a cohesive mixture that is more than the sum of its parts, yet only the base for what’s to come. Dealing exclusively with pornography, Erik Blood’s Touch Screens would of course be a chowder.
And how does Touch Screens deal with pornography? With a sensitivity and playfulness mostly missing from the modern incarnation of its subject matter. But that’s just it- Blood’s songs about fucking are sentimental odes to what he sees as a short-lived and long-gone golden age of porn, before AIDS, before the industry began alternating between boredom and brutality for the sake of the bottom line. John Holmes was a star and mainstream audiences flocked to theaters playing Deep Throat and Behind the Green Door. Blood wears his love for this optimistic and innocent porn of his youth on his sleeve, in turn reminding us all that we take both the business and pleasure of sex just a bit too seriously.
Album opener “Phenominal Pornography” introduces us to the genre in a rush of tumbling toms, harmonized vocals, and insistent guitars, Blood singing “I am exciting, I am obscene” over top, before it dissolves into a delicate string interlude. He laments early exits from the industry by would-be stars on the darkly beautiful electro of “The Lonesome Death of Henry Paris” and the somber “Rex Roman”. The DFA- esque “Today’s Lover” updates the instant-gratification sentiment of Kraftwerk’s “Computer Love” for the digital age they predicted, while the tight bump-and-grind of the second half of “Amputee” should, in a perfect world, become the theme music for a Portland stripper by year’s end.
Touch Screens’ high point, both lyrically and musically, comes in the form of “Share Your Love”. In its first half, a voice (perhaps an on-set co-star) envies an actor who has a true love waiting at home, before the coin flips in a cacophony of looped guitars and synths, and we hear said frustrated lover asking the actor “Is this the way it’s gonna be forever?” over the best two minutes of pop music you’re likely to hear from anyone in 2012. When someone tells you they are making an album about porn, this maybe isn’t what you’d expect, but it is what Erik Blood means. One man’s dirty pictures are another man’s works of art.
But with Touch Screens, Erik Blood has done something far more important than making the obscene once again palatable to the masses: he has made a record without time and place, one that stands on its own outside of the rabidly over-protective and insular Northwest music community. Touch Screens is big, bold, lush and washy, danceable and meditative in equal degrees as it is futuristic and nostalgic at the same time, and of course, immaculately produced. In five years, it will still be all of these things, while fifty more Seattle musical darlings will have come and gone. For that, Blood deserves to have the term “local artist” before any mention of his name removed in favor of just “artist”. Who says there’s no redeeming social value in porno?