kim salmon & the surrealists – grand unifying theory

the combination of kim salmon and stellar aesthetic (literally, the cover art is made of constellations) made this a must-have. and it’s totally worth it. this isn’t meaningful music in a predictable sense – as in, i don’t get emotional when i listen to it. i don’t think of particularly momentous events in my own life.

when i first became aware of kim salmon in the mid to late 1990s, it was in this guise – a kind of grotty lounge singer [see vid below, from that era]. there was a close likeness to another singular australian crooner, a real contemporary, dave graney. in my mind at least, they were close together – and this album had the involvement of the latter. it doesn’t seem so far fetched after all.

this album is actually more like his scientist days, with some pretty hefty noise-based punk, but more innovation than punk allowed. so while it occurred more than twenty years hence (2010), and it’s not necessarily unique among modern music either, it is very much of kim’s creation. the second song, order of things, stands with the closest link to his earlier music. the repeated refrain, we are the elite, when connected to the song’s title, implies some of the dominant/oppressed social dichotomies that have preoccupied a large number of musicians for many years. the simplicity still manages a commentary that is impossible to ignore – in fact, i think it makes the point more sharply.

it’s difficult to land on singles of any kind that stand out amongst other songs on this album. one can tell that it would be excellent music to witness live, and indeed it was recorded as such. song five, grand unifying theory ii, is a great example.

it’s just guitar noise and feedback in a rhythmic pattern, the same chord over and over again, for two minutes. at that point, the chords stop with some lingering noise in the background and a rapid cymbal beat starting and carrying through for a further minute, implying a likely pending shift – possibly climactic. then the bass kicks in; foreboding and very low end, with a similar fast pace to the cymbals. another minute passes, and the guitar shifts to a funk-based wah and the bass drums kick in to create something slightly more conventional. and yet, it is anything but. after eleven minutes, the track fully quietens to some toned down noise – nothing discordant – to resemble some of the experimental jazz i have elsewhere in the collection. around minute fourteen, the beat and a touch of the bass, as well as the occasional screech of kim’s funk guitar, reappear. it’s worth paying attention to every second of this 22-minute song, just to hear and witness – and i mean that literally – the brilliance that is kim salmon. that’s a mere 1,320 seconds of your life.

as i listen, i think he was the australian version of dave pajo, as a guitarist. it’s just rock, but not as most know it. for all you historians out there, kim both coined the term and purveyed grunge well before seattle knew what the hell was going on.

love you kimbo. have i said that before?


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