Strange, Over the Status Quo

In An Age Of Automatic Factory Pop

By Benjamin Smith

During high school I played guitar in a three-piece called Mystical Penis. We were terrible. Striving to emulate Pink Floyd, we somehow produced porn music. We also rarely practiced, and performed live only once – in my parents’ backyard for my graduation party. Being 18, I was irrationally optimistic the morning of the show. This optimism soon soured when the bassist and I heard rumors that the drummer planned to abandon us. The bassist wanted to cancel. Out of pride I refused. Putting on a black beret and a blue Hawaiian shirt, I proclaimed like Achilles: “If we’re not going to be good, then we’re going to be weird.” Initiating the affair with a hillbilly version of Floyd’s “Astronomy Domine,” we started berating the audience for not saluting our genius. Eyes rolled, tensions rose. Following a few more sonic debacles I left the patio and went inside to sulk like Billy Corgan. Apparently the bassist concluded the evening with an endless instrumental rendition of  “Something” by the Beatles. I bet it was abysmal.

I share all this for two reasons: to illustrate the fact that drummers will always let you down, and to introduce these album reviews in fitting fashion. You see, I can’t promise you’ll find any of these records “good,” aesthetically-speaking, but you’ll probably find a couple of them “weird.” And in the current era of automatic factory pop, I suspect you’ll take the strange over the status quo every single time.

Album: Songs
Artist: Rusko
Label: Mad Decent
Release Date: March 2012
Country: United Kingdom
Perfect For: People Who Do The Robot In The Shower
Enjoy With: Robots
Let’s clarify something about the recent offering from Rusko, a.k.a dubstep DJ/producer Christopher Mercer. Songs does indeed contain songs (thank god), but it is not “mad decent,” and Rusko does not appear to be on fire. Instead, it is mildly amusing, and Rusko appears to be entranced by dub, hip-hop and house music. Things could be worse. Fans of The Flaming Lips’ Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots will no doubt flail around to “Somebody To Love,” while worshippers of the first Gorillaz album should grind to “Skanker.” All parties, though, must skip “Intro—Year 3000 Style,” in which Rusko pontificates on “pushing boundaries” with some stoned bloke. Pushing boundaries is pushing it: dirty synth slabs do not equal progress and evolution. They can, however, provide groove and mirth. Rusko’s dubstep may be the sound of the near future. You’ve been warned.

Album: Chapter Two: Konstellation Neu
Artist: The British Expeditionary Force
Label: Erased Tapes/Konkurrent
Release Date: March 2012
Country: United Kingdom
Perfect For: That Introspective-Looking Guy At Thai 9
Enjoy With: Sushi And Wine
Band names either entice or repulse me. Due to their moniker, which seemed to glow with Nickelodeon connotations, I refused to check out the now defunct Yourcodenameis:milo. Being a fan of all things World War One, I have perused The British Expeditionary Force, founded in part by former milo guitarist Justin Lockey. I’m glad I did. At times Chapter Two: Konstellation Neu recalls Radiohead’s Kid A plus more percussion and singer Aid Burrow’s Chris Martin-like vocals. The third track, “Cogs And Chemicals,” presents a pulsing 1984-in-Ecuador vibe. The quieter moments like “Commotion” suggest the Lost in Translation soundtrack. The louder moments like “When All Of This Is Done” suggest My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless. I sense the cults of Thom Yorke and Kevin Shields, but at least the duo is worship-worthy. Regardless, romantics of all stripes should purchase Chapter Two if only for the blissful “Where You Go I Will Follow.” Your lover(s) will thank you.

Album: Egor
Artist: The Mount Fuji Doomjazz Corporation
Label: Denovali Records/Parallel Corners
Release Date: April 2012
Country: The Netherlands
Perfect For: Creepy People
Enjoy With: Frogmen
About an hour south of Dayton lies Loveland, reputed home of the Loveland Frog. According to some reports the reptile can walk like a human. One eyewitness in the 1950s even claimed the Frog carried a sparkling wand. Now, if you were ever drunk or deluded enough to drive to Loveland at night to find this creature, then parts of Egor — recorded live in Moscow by “the experimental alter ego of The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble” — would prove ideal accompaniment. Opener “Elevator of the Machine” is a suspenseful stretch of guitar, violin and trombone, punctured with cryptic noises and voices. At some points the melody brings to mind a Quaalude take of Pink Floyd’s “Empty Spaces.” Yet as the album progresses, the eeriness grows mundane and the separate songs become indistinguishable. The last track, “Glass Is Destroyed” is downright boring. Its best bit is the concluding out-of-tune piano solo and breaking glass. The horror! If Egor had more emotion and energy, it would be a real beast.

Album: Fence
Artist: Fence
Label: Rough Trade/Fons Records
Release Date: April 2012
Country: Belgium
Perfect For: Oasis Zealots
Enjoy With: Mild Hash
Belgium’s Fence came together in the mid-1990s. In a review from 2000, the members described their sound as: “Sloppy poppy music, made with drums and guitars and a Big Muff distortion pedal and played by four ordinary dudes having tons of fun.” Personnel changes aside, their present output is business as usual. Fence is a twelve-song set of slightly off-key Beatlepop emphasizing acoustic guitars and distorted vocals. Keyboards, sitars, and sporadic shots of electric guitar add late-‘60s texture. Devotees of the White Album may find this a flawed masterpiece. One of the record’s defects (besides its lack of originality) is its lyrical quality control. “Cool is a four letter word,” Meindert Leenders croons on “Cool Spirit.” Accurate, but obvious. “Hey look at me, I can fly like a bee,” he proclaims on “The Bee Song.” Charming, but doubtful. Since this ridiculousness could be the result of cultural divide, I advise just savoring the summery melodies and über-retro beats.

Reach DCP freelance writer Benjamin Smith at

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