Boombox | Music | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper


Dead Batteries (Live)

The secret history of Boombox, as documented on Dead Batteries, is one that stretches back centuries: from Hassan-i-Sabbah's order of hashish-induced assassins, to the 17th-century heretical Ranters; from absinthe-swilling romantic poets to tech-prone English post-punks, twiddling knobs and popping eardrums. Because Boombox is one half wild-eyed insurgent spiritual extremist, one half calculated sci-fi robot-rocker -- part alien invader, part native witch doctor. It's a history that Boombox plans on leaving somewhat behind itself, hence the skin-shedding release of Dead Batteries, a collection of live and live-on-radio recordings of a band for whom confusion seems more liberating than the freedom to repeat.


If the Pay Toilets, the confrontational trio fronted by Boomboxer Jim Lingo, is the only real punk band in Pittsburgh (for better [frequently] or for worse [just as frequently]), then Boombox is the only real post-punk band in Pittsburgh. On Dead Batteries, Boombox doesn't simply meld together the traits of other punk-influenced experimentalists -- the metallic clang-funk and po-mo politicizing of Gang of Four and the Pop Group; Joy Division's early synthesizer swirls -- though those sounds are present. No, Boombox sounds like what those bands were in their own origins: a punk band that got bored, and started musically drifting forward and back. Hence the 9-minute rhythmic drone of "515 Nightmare Squad," and the bleep-bloop paean to electricity "Shock Rock." ("I like electricity," Boombox wants us to know, "amps and ohms and static shock!") It's a matter of keeping the musicians within the band interested, on their toes, rather than merely wowing an audience: Boombox does both with intoxication and indoctrination.


Together with Zombi drummer Tony Paterra and Karl Hendricks bassist Caulen Kress, Lingo and fellow audiophile Mike Seamans scrawl on synths and loop machines, squeal saxes and guitars, scream, sing and generally make a racket over rhythm that's almost absurdly hypnotically compelling. Throughout this, one can only imagine, Boombox is subliminally sending murderous messages to its mentally lassoed listeners: Become one of us, the "Psychic Boombox" seems to say, and we will give you more and more, just as you will need less and less.


Boombox is a band that could conquer the music world, or at least the music neighborhood, and still end up wearing an aluminum foil hat and sandwich-board sign outside the courthouse, panhandling while trying to save a few souls. In this day and age, spiritualism comes in odd shapes, and it doesn't come cheap.