Salem’s ‘King Night’ requires a designated driver

By Austin Dale

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Chicago-based band Salem is delirious, and completely so. They don’t hesitate to let people know about their love for synthetic drugs – their first EP was titled “Yes I Smoke Crack” – and seem in a state of continuous disregard for their own well-being. They’ve been booed off stage, and one member slept through an interview with The New York Times while his band mates showed up slurring and dozy. They may not even be aware they’ve become famous. This all makes it hard to write about Salem, because despite all of this, there is much to love about their new album “King Night.” They can only be encouraged to keep up whatever it is they’re doing, because they’re doing something right.

King Night is a doozy of an album, and it’s fairly impossible to properly describe. Imagine the musical equivalent of cough syrup. It has that awesomely intoxicating color, but it’s thick and slow-moving, gooey and gross and you can’t even imagine what in the world went into it. Spend enough time with a bottle of the stuff and you will get really, really high.

All of this also goes for King Night, a completely self-destructive slice of musical evil, seemingly assembled by a professional orchestra playing only with garbage cans, overdriven harpsichords and Satan’s kneecaps – and over that, what sounds like drugged geriatrics rhyming about violence, God, and most memorably, nothing.

This should be the worst album ever, yet it attains some twisted kind of classical beauty in the simplest and most unexpected ways. The best example is its opener, the title track, which is actually just a choral recording of “O Holy Night” manipulated to such a sick extent that it sounds less like a Christmas carol and more like what you’d expect as elevator music on your journey to Hades.

Buy this album. Do not play the album over speakers. Do not play this album to your friends, family, acquaintances, relatives or strangers. Do not, for goodness’ sake, play this record if you are a DJ, because next to toxic waste, it might be the best way to create liver-eating zombies. Everyone you play this album for will be getting ready to tell news reporters they never saw it coming.

No no no. Just play this album on headphones, allow it to take you on a bender … And in its wake, try to forget you ever heard the damn thing.

Austin Dale can be reached at [email protected]