Tuesday October 9, 2001
Like no prior cultures or creatures, modern human beings shape their own reality. We live sealed under glass and shielded from nature behind refrigerated air, laboratory-bred genes and powerful drugs. Our houses, the food we eat and even our personalities are now customizable, shaped by human rules and prerogatives instead of nature's. But while the power represented by Prozac, genomes and refrigerated air is impressive and unprecedented, it's also deeply unsettling.
Or at least that's the message of Anaesthetic, the latest album from Chicago rock band Milemarker. The seven songs here chronicle humanity's increasing power to insulate itself from the natural order, all the while expressing deep misgivings about the potential of this power.
"We can build our own people in every way we choose/we can push our own buttons like adolescent gods," sings bassist/singer Al Burian in "Ant Architect," leaving no doubt how he feels about the potential those gods have to abuse their powers.
Other tracks express similar apprehensions. "A Quick Trip to the Clinic," for example, bemoans the Prozac-fueled craze for personality-altering drugs - "a color contact for every emotion/for any occasion/for any situation" - while eulogizing a time when dealing with depression and unhappiness involved more than just a 15-minute appointment with the shrink.
The music on Anaesthesia is similarly laced with apprehension. Dave Laney's minor-key, angular guitar blasts meet Roby Newton's crisp, ominous new-wave keyboards to create an ice-cold, austere sound that mirrors the hermetic world depicted by the lyrics. Burian and Laney's urgent male vocals complement each other while Newton's unnerving, slightly off-key moan only furthers a general sense of unease - anchoring the album's conviction that human accomplishments, while unquestionably impressive, have not come without an array of ominous, as-yet-unrealized costs and compromises.