IT TOOK A FEW TRIES before the Body succeeded in making the grossest pop album of all time.
Let's jump back a bit. When Chip King and Lee Buford entered Rhode Island's Machines with Magnets studio to record their 2013 breakthrough, Christs, Redeemers, they had no songs written.
"We had ideas for stuff, but we couldn't really practice it because we just don't have [the necessary equipment] to lay stuff down and figure it out," King says over the phone. "So we just had ideas, and when we got to the studio, we started building the songs."
That's an unconventional way of doing things, but then again, the duo makes the conventional seem downright old-fashioned. Buford plays drums and programs beats, while King plays guitar and adds his unholy howl to the mix. Together, they combine synthesized sounds, scorched sludge-metal, beautiful vocal melodies, and clangorous noise to make something that sounds unlike anything else.
Over the past few years, Buford and King have recorded and released more collaborative records with other bands than official the Body albums. Collaborators include black metal band Krieg, grindcore powerhouse Full of Hell, Louisiana sludge titans Thou, and Sandworm, a blackened punk band from Providence, the Body's former hometown.
Buford and King moved to Portland almost four years ago, and this weekend at High Water Mark they'll celebrate the release of their brand-new album, No One Deserves Happiness, out on Thrill Jockey Records. The label is touting the release as "the grossest pop album of all time," and it's hard to argue: One spin through its 10 tracks reveals some of the Body's most accessible work to date.
Which is a relative term, of course. But on No One Deserves Happiness, Buford and King make more liberal use of synths and drum beats. They edge, in places, toward more traditional pop song structures. More than ever before, they pair their dark, caustic music with beautiful vocals provided by Chrissy Wolpert of the Assembly of Light Choir, Maralie Armstrong of Humanbeast, and Reba Mitchell of Whore Paint. And the vocals are intelligible! On a Body album!
"This is like our first record where you can actually understand any words," Buford says.
The album's first single, "Shelter Is Illusory," is a beat-driven death march that features a haunting Armstrong performance. It sounds like it could be a huge dance-club hit in some corroded, dystopian nightmare world.
That is not an accident.
"We listen to a lot of new hip-hop stuff, so I think that definitely is in there. Especially the hi-hats," Buford says. "Chip listens to pretty much just noise and Taylor Swift and Katy Perry. Playing music for so long, a lot of music you see is so repetitive that for some reason the only thing we can really get behind is pop music, and I feel like even pop music is more adventurous than most avant-garde or underground stuff these days, which is really sad."
Of course, No One Deserves Happiness has its share of pure, thunderous terror-noise, too. And lyrically, the band's enduring themes of loss and loneliness remain. In fact, it's those themes that define the Body's music for Buford more so than the volume.
"It gets frustrating when people say it's so scary or it's so brutal, and it's like: not really, at all," he says. "I understand when we play live it's really loud or whatever. But if you read the lyrics, they're all just really sad. There's no machismo. It's just really depressing."