A Plague of Frogs
SCSI-9, Badly Drawn Boy, Genghis Tron and Plague Songs
Badly Drawn Boy
SCSI-9’s surprisingly warm and human sound drifts into comfortable patterns which might be received as redundancy or benign aural wallpaper if you’re not already pre-programmed for the ever-present rhythmic mantras of minimalist techno. An acquired taste perhaps, The Line of Nine represents a vanguard sound that is already being absorbed through osmosis by forward-thinking hiphop and electropop producers. Today’s avant-garde will be tomorrow’s mainstream pop, so get used to it.
Badly Drawn Boy
With the aid of something called objectivity, however, Born In the UK is a decent enough send up on ’70’s era, slickly produced piano pop. Yes, it doesn’t hold a candle to Bewilderbeast ’s subtle quirkiness, and Gough’s lyrics have gotten more than a tad blunt (as in James), but sometimes a pop record can just be a pop record, rather than a life affirming, mind-altering experience. Right?
Almost in spite of the 72 backing tracks on each song, a number of winners emerge, including the anthemic title track, the nicely countrified “The Way Things Used to Be,” and the classically catchy “Journey From A to B.” The nonstop sentimentality does become a bit much after a while, but Gough is one of the few singers who can pull it off with minimal cringe-inducing moments. He just sounds like a guy who’s still pretty sure about what he’s doing, even if his original fanbase is a little perplexed.
Dead Mountain Mouth spans a sprawling musical map, opting to light for the longest stretches in the grindcore territories conquered by the Slap-A-Ham Records crowd in the late 1990s. The group’s grind/spazzcore + electronics = XXX formula yields a grating musical experience which has been plundered more effectively in the past by acts such as Agorophobic Nosebleed. Different indeed, Genghis Tron’s oeuvre works better in theory than in actual practice. The album is, at best, a noble experiment gone awry. While connoisseurs of grind will surely continue to hone and puree their— aargh —“art” for eternity, the unlistenability of the genre will insure that it stays in the basement where it belongs, like a deformed and inbred cousin that nobody ever talks about.
These are schizoid offerings, beginning with the heavy scatterbeats of Klashnekoff and ending with the subdued acoustics of Rufus Wainwright. There’s no unity here, with each song freefalling into the next, mapping a sonic terrain as diverse as geological strata. Imogen Heap’s “Glittering Cloud” summons the plague of locusts with its pixilated backdrop noise and smooth vocal veneer, which doesn’t do much to mask the madness building in the background. The song “Boils” by Cody ChesnuTT begins laborously, like a crippled march. Then the horns kick in, belaboring and thickly slathered, blowing smoke. The notes are sticky, the polar opposite of King Cresote’s “Relate the Tale,” which is an airy, downtempo, repetitous arrangement that captures the beautiful absurdities of the plague of frogs. I have been a stranger in a strange land , replete with desert mirages and aural catastrophes.