In a recent interview, Al Cisneros of Sleep/Om fame stated that “scenes of any kind seem to be havens for sheep people.” I tend to agree with the statement and have always frowned upon bands that place status in a scene before other considerations. A band should never try to consciously play the role of shepherd. Professor Murder is a scene band. It formed to cater to a certain scene that exists in New York City, and, as such, it creates simple music that strives to fill a small corner of that scene while expending as little effort as possible. Like Om, the band is basically a hulking rhythm section, but the similarities really end there. While both bands place a strong emphasis on rhythm, they still remain near polar opposites. While Om capitalizes on the slick groove of a well-greased rhythm section, Professor Murder constructs its songs out of very static rhythm, utilizing mostly percussion and simple, stiff bass plucks.
Professor Murder claims to be the future of post-punk, tossing around the term “progressive post-punk” in biographical material. If anything, the music found on the Professor Murder Rides the Subway EP approximates an opposite of the progression of the post-punk ideal, a “reductive post-punk” that distills the genre into the core necessities and operates from there. There’s really not much to Professor Murder at all: a few introductory keyboard strokes and then bangin’ and shoutin’ away for the remainder of whatever song it is the guys happen to be playing.
Still, while Professor Murder is a young band jumping on to the dance-punk wagon that’s been cruising the States in recent times (and lately only seems able to spin its wheels under the weight of all those piled aboard), the band’s highly percussive take on the genre is a little refreshing. Having as many as three members playing percussive instruments at one time is a welcome change from the usually excruciating synthesizer and guitar tones that overwhelm modern dance-punk songs. It’s much easier on pretty much anything music can effect (one’s ears, mood, psyche, spiritual well-being, sexual performance, desire to commit monstrous crimes, suicidal tendencies, etc) when some art-jerk’s Casio isn’t cranked up to 10 and run through five phaser pedals. While most of the tracks on Professor Murder Rides the Subway do use keyboards that occasionally border on irritating, they aren’t a central focus and at times are down-right tasteful, as in the strong closer “Free Stress Test.”
Perhaps Professor Murder hasn’t rubbed me the wrong way because the songs don’t stick around long enough to do so. At 16 minutes, Professor Murder Rides the Subway is finished before you even have a chance to think of a reason to hate it (or love it, for that matter). Its mix of hip-hop and dub-influenced booty-shaking and odd, chanting vocals is hardly memorable, and that may be the best part. Its immediacy directly serves its ultimate purpose, and there’s no need to give the band a second thought until it comes time to bump-da-bump again. Professor Murder certainly isn’t the worst band in one of history’s most shallow musical genres, and it isn’t the only band out there looking to take advantage of a currently “hot” scene. Professor Murder Rides the Subway is perfectly suited to a night of mindless dancing, and last I checked, NYC was filled with that. I suppose in that respect, Professor Murder can’t truly be faulted; it’s a mindless buyer’s market, and these guys certainly bring the mindless goods.