Show Me The Body continue to operate in this way – the three of them unapologetically calling the shots. It’s that approach, and the fact that this is their first big feature and shoot, that leaves us in limbo for a couple of hours following lunch. The moment for photographs has arrived and Julian is particularly self conscious of being shot staring into the middle distance like he wants to be in U2, regardless of how much I try to assure him that we don’t want to capture the band like that.
We first try a roof overlooking the Hudson, courtesy of a friend of Gabriel’s. But after a joint there and a couple of games of X-Box (which none of us are cut out for, especially Gabriel, who I think might have even managed to kill himself in Call Of Duty), the roof is out of bounds to us, so we descend back to street level in the oak elevator. The second idea that we all seem happy with is the band and some police officers, on an ironic tip considering certain tracks on ‘Body War’ reference police brutality – an issue that the band take as seriously as anybody should. Problem is, Manhattan Valley is hardly crawling with cops, which prompts us to chance our luck walking into a precinct and innocently asking the officers if they’ll come outside for a photo. Julian about turns at the door once he remembers what’s in his carrier bag; the officers politely decline reasoning that they’re understaffed today and sending us in the direction of Central Park – “they’ll love you there.” So there we are, hunting cops in the middle of New York’s greenery, which is a pretty bizarre situation to be in – kinda fun and kinda awkward as the light starts to dwindle and I start to panic. No cops anywhere.
As we schlep south towards the Natural History Museum (Harlan has texted a friend studying there who might be able to sign us in via the staff entrance for unprecedented access – sadly it’s another brick wall despite his brave fighting of our corner at the security desk), Harlan tells me about his studies at Vermont, and how he appreciates the band waiting for him to graduate, “because at one point it really did look like I’d only be able to do one or the other.”
“Fuck it – the cops shut down our last show, and they can shut down this show, and the next show”
His father, who was at the Imperial Ballroom show with Harlan’s brother, is a builder who studied visual art at prestigious NY music and art school LaGuardia.
“I’m more interested in the use of space,” he says, “which is what the other night was about. I’m not interested in destroying buildings, I’m interested in saving them, and I’d rather use what I studied within the band.”
He points out that SMTB apply the study of space to their music also – the dynamics of ‘Body War’ prove him right. Because for SMTB’s fierce live show, strong anti-capitalist beliefs and anger at their unforgiving city, their music is far from mindless where even the most vital of hardcore bands often thrash at one pace. ‘Body War’ is a mix of Death Grips style noise, industrial punk, early Beastie Boys staccato vocals, hip-hop, sludge rock and drone. Harlan’s bass always grooves but at different speeds and fuzz settings, from the quick scuzz of ‘Tight Swat’ to the much slower padding of the trippy ‘Death Sounds 2’. On ‘Chrome Exposed’ it makes a weird forever ascending buzz; on ‘Aspirin’ it’s the track’s heartbeat that’s both doomy and mechanical. Julian wires a banjo rather than a guitar through his amp for an unconventional grating noise that at first seems as though it might be completely electronic. In turn he raps, sings and screams his abstract lyrics. Just when you think you’ve got that one element sussed out he delivers ‘Metallic Taste’, a lullaby that is more like King Krule than anything else. Or the ambient spoken word ‘Honesty Hour’, on which his traumatised vocals crow “a response to music culture and hardcore culture, and taking it back to what I think it should be about, which isn’t about what is ‘proper hardcore’ or the toughest shit you can do, but what’s the realest shit you can do.” You will have definitely heard some of the band’s elements before, but never jammed together quite like this. ‘Body War’ is one of the most exciting experimental punk records in years.
We finally find a couple of cops down in the subway by Columbus Circle, which is at the complete opposite end of the park from where we started looking. In the interim we also rule out a photo at John Lennon’s Dakota Building, smoking weed in a deli and a shot outside Trump Tower. Photographer David meets the band a few weeks later for a much more fruitful ride on the Staten Island Ferry… in the rain.
It’s getting darker as we sit in the bottom corner of the park beside one of the city’s two malls, full of designer shops that are so far removed from everything Show Me The Body represent they appear to mocking them. “No one’s trying to reinvigorate community,” says Julian, dejected, “they’re just trying to push something. New York’s all being sold.”