Reviews: Carnage Visors and Scentless Apprentice

See through.
See through.

I challenged my writer/blogger friend Dan Marsh to review a song, and he counter offered by suggesting an additional song for us both to review.

The song I suggested, Carnage Visors, is a 27 minute instrumental musical orgasm of darkness that was offered as a cassette-only b-side recording by The Cure in 1981.

The music is hypnotic and repetitive, but never boring, built not on lyrics, but on a grimly constructed bass line that keeps teasing us and tempting us to let go into an abyss.

It is entirely plausible to put this piece of music on an endless loop and play it in hell; not the seventh circle of hell, but the nicest parts of hell (Nine Inch Nails reference).

Carnage Visors is the opposite of the high school cheerleader, the opposite of the public relations spokesmodel, the opposite of the nuclear family. Carnage Visors elicits honest tears of loss, of fear, of humiliation, of regret.

How many secrets must we keep in plain sight?
How many secrets must we keep in plain sight?

If Carnage Visors is an orgy of blackened souls, Dan’s suggestion, Scentless Apprentice by Nirvana, instantly sounds like the chaos Jewish children created when asked to draw pictures of their homes after World War II.

Musically, Scentless Apprentice hits hard.

For as acidic and oddly tuneless as it is, and with all the screamed lyrics, you might think this song is trying to get you to stop listening, but as I fired it up to play for the second time, the third time, the tenth time, I couldn’t stop listening. I couldn’t even turn the volume down. It was injecting some kind of musical drug into my ears. I found myself bobbing my head and shoulders to the driving rhythm, and almost getting chills during the dirtiest of the screams.

Yes, Kurt Cobain’s dirty screams hit my ears with a desperation that can’t be faked. Were these the sounds of a dying drug addict? No, not at all. The dying and drug addiction followed the downward spiral (Nine Inch Nails reference) Cobain had been building since he could talk, and this song is following it as well.

Much of this song is aimed at expressing chaos; chaos in a tortured soul, chaos in an unfair world, chaos of intimacy gone wrong.

In an odd way, Scentless Apprentice invites me to reinvent my past, only as a dirt poor roadie fan crashing as many Nirvana concerts and appearances as I could. It invites me to be a photographer at the gates, held back by security men, trying to get the truth of this mess, but at the same time, filled with the desire to be a part of the band.

Unlike the often sophisticated lyrics of Nine Inch Nails, Cobain keeps his words relatively simple… “Hey, go away, go away, go away, go away, go away, go away, go away…”

The downside to songs like this is that they invite you to go to a similar dark place, a place we all have inside us, filled with rage and fear, a perfect place where it all seems simple. I learned this lesson decades ago when I listened to too much Nine Inch Nails, and let it take me down with it.

On the other hand, it definitely washes the Sarah McLaughlin from your mouth.

You can wash your face, but can you wash your soul?
You can wash your face, but can you wash your soul?


  1. Nine Inch Nails took me down the same spiral with just one album and I just had to get out of it. The only thing that keeps Nirvana from having the same effect on me is, I think, the musicianship of the band – tight, concise, rocking – and the knowledge (borne after 25 years) that not every member of Nirvana followed a self-destructive path. This is a great review that will really make me up my game for the next installment. Oh, and I really was afraid to listen to Carnage Visors.

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