A+ A-

The Mystery of Victory Hands Part 1: "ANDERSON" and "BERNSTEIN"

I moved at the end of July through the beginning of August. Amidst the chaos of box cities shifting too and fro, trucks delivering another round of citizens to their new vistas, I found a strange package at my new address: a flat box about a foot tall with a sticker of Richard Nixon on the front and the name "Victory Hands". Seemingly there was a record (or records) inside, but I didn't have time to open it during all of the procedures at the time. Did I agree to review something? I couldn't remember.

When I finally did open the box, I found an assortment of interesting items. The band was Victory Hands, and they are from Atlanta, Georgia. The package contained three of their releases inside of increasing size: 7 inches, 10 inches, and 12 inches of vinyl disc. All of the records were transparent vinyl, all had stark black-and-white covers, all had elaborate fold-out packaging with Richard Nixon transcriptions, and all were named after self-declared media enemies of Richard Nixon.
The first was ANDERSON, a 10" single. The cover is creepy, though I don't really know why. It looks like a mob going after someone, perhaps a killing by stoning. the grin, the wall, the moon are all strange features. I can't get over the woman and child on the right, a grotesque morphing of traditional imagery. As for the title, Anderson was a journalist who investigated the Iran-Contra Affair, fleeing Nazis hiding out in South America, and various cases with Richard Nixon. The administration plotted to assassinate Anderson, but this was destroyed after the Watergate affair. This record remains a transparent relic of such a time.

"The Guy We Can Kick" is a lurching, vertigo unbalanced mid-range drone rocker cut from early 90s Sonic Youth and Gang of Four. "If They Give Him The Shaft" is a metallic, melodic rocker with an eerie undercurrent in the left channel. The vocals give the song the feel of a worn hero, a portrait from a different angle of our tarnished 37th president. It's somewhat poignant, do we attribute too many problems with the modern world to people of the past? The people of the present, of the future, can always make different choices than their ancestors.

ANDERSON receives a Good.

The second release is a 7" EP, BERNSTEIN. The cover shows Nixon's dog, Checkers, a black-and-white cocker spaniel. Less innocently, Carl Bernstein was one of the main reporters about the Watergate scandal, going on to write All the President's Men with his partner, Bob Woodward. He later wrote about Pope John Paul II, the relation between the CIA and the American media, and the increasing trend of sensationalism in American journalism. Let's ditch that trend.

"Nixon Is My Copilot" is the first track. With rumbling bass and melodic, almost naive, guitars, the song shifts between happy and nervous. It increasingly drones, all instrumental, as it goes on with a whining fade-out. "Nixon Is My Copilot" is a nice, short, snappy, poppy piece. "Lady of the Lake" is a Sir Walter Scott poem turned into musick by James Sanderson; it's "Hail to the Chief". The song has been replicated here in slow-mo, slightly sludgish, a rock replica of 1990s-isms. "September 23rd, 1952" references Nixon's "Checkers Speech" about modest living with his dog Checkers as a metaphor. The song sounds like something from a Hanna-Barbera cartoon like The Flintstones or The Jetsons. I think it mostly reminds me of the cover of the title track from the latter by The Urinals, though this is less frantic. "Undressed To The Tease" takes words from a conversation between Nixon and Henry Kissinger on November 17th, 1971 about Ronald Reagan. The pair basically underestimated the actor-politician. The song is the hardest on this EP, pushing ahead with Nixon's angry words, "doesn't he know these battles we fight and fight and fight?" I don't think I know these battles myself; their self-created, a framework of neurotics, globalism, control, and economic starvation.

BERNSTEIN receives a Good.

Victory Hands has certainly made its mark in my book. I enjoyed all of these tracks and found the paranoia, juxtapositions, and double-meanings very interesting. The high-contrast images and transparent vinyl display what I see as the meaning of all of this: the need for transparency in our current American government and the relation of that need, and lack of such a transparency, going back decades. The war on journalism is not just a recent trend. Nevertheless, we're not to the destination yet, in government or in Victory Hands discography. Do we have Bernsteins and Andersons of today? I don't know; perhaps citizens are more informed in a sense through the internet but still lacking in a heroic figurehead to push forward. Victory Hands themselves have one more record we're going to take a look at, though I expect there will be more in the future.

Skull Valley investigates the transparent noise rock of Victory Hands, a band the covers Richard Nixon.