CD Reviews 10 Apr 2006


(2006   Crustacean Records)

Holy shit.  No… seriously… Holy shit.  This is one of those discs, man.  Smart, intense, dynamic, harsh, smooth, blatant and subtle, all while kicking you in the teeth.  You feel IfIHadAHiFi barrel into your mind, stomping around with a feeling of arrogance and audacious noise crafted into a throbbing hunk of tasty gristle.  Combining these two bands on one record does more than just give a unique format for unique music, but also uses the rare and cost-effective format of the split LP, a chance to get more than the seven minutes per band that the split EP offers, all while not forcing you to pay for two CDs in order to explore new music.

As the first electric stabs of “Spin Spider Spin” bounce between the speakers, as the bass and hand claps fill in the mix, as the tripped-out vocal layers hit, as the simple, straight rock beats pound, you still don’t know what this band has in store for you.  The hooks in the choruses lull you into thinking you get it, that you’ve already put your finger on this pulse, but you’re wrong.  The song splits into the intense manic patterns of noisy, upsetting, crazed and almost unreal psychosis, all before bringing you back into the bouncy verse. 

The band continues to tear into your stereo, making you fear for the safety of your woofers, making you reach for that next bong hit, making you feel the noise pushing on your throat.  Even with funky synths, dynamic beats and layers of guttural guitar noise, IfIHadAHiFi just doesn’t prepare you properly for “We Got the Beat.”  But then again, what could ever prepare you for a Go-Gos cover?  And who would have thought an extended solo of mutating grit would lend itself so well to this requisite 80s cover? 

While Modern Machines doesn’t work with as much aberrant noise as the HiFi kids, the grooves are just as engaging.  There is a smooth rock ‘n’ roll groove, with solid drumming accenting slightly twangy guitar tones.  But the tight harmonies are what hold the sounds together.  “Don’t Send Me No Flowers,” with its refrains of “I’m not dead yet,” was utterly ingrained in my head before it even resolved into its hooky chorus.

Each song holds onto the taste of 50s greaser-rock glory, even while introducing punk overtones and flavors of Southern arena rock.  “Unequipped” even manages to mix heady doses of G ‘n’R with the Butthole Surfers, hybridizing the disparate directions into a convincingly cohesive whole.  Their final tune of this offering, a cover of Warren Zevon’s “Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner,” ends the disc with a decidedly eclectic flavor.

Crustacean Records continues to build an arsenal of wry musical experimentalists that churn out forward-thinking hard-rock tuneage.  With the addition of these two enigmatic and entertaining acts, the label is positioning itself to become a strong presence regionally and, with any luck or justice, nationally.  But until this label and the artists they represent break into the limelight, we can keep them all to ourselves, reveling in the haze of a new punk rock aesthetic.

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