Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Exile On Mainstream roundup

There's no telling what to expect when a package from Germany's Exile on Mainstream Records arrives at Chez Rosenbloom. Could be excellent, could be not so much, but credit the label for its catholic taste. Here are a couple recent records that fall in the "excellent" camp.

We Insist! - Oh! Things Are So Corruptible (Exile On Mainstream, 2008)

There's a lot to like about this third album by We Insist!, a Parisian band named after a classic Max Roach protest album. Propulsive, heavy rock in the vein of Quicksand and Jawbox forms the backbone of a pretty wide-ranging sound. Vertebrae stretch out towards the slanted rhythms and modal scales of Shiner (my favorite!) on "Imperial Catechism;" "The Great Disorder" could be a stripped-down System of a Down ballad. A two-man sax section operates either in honking counterpoint or harmonic sympathy with the rest of the band, sometimes breaking out into curling free jazz solos. We Insist! make great use of all those harmonic layers, rubbing smooth sax and multiple frictive guitars against one another in recombinant forms.

We Insist! - "Imperial Catechism"
We Insist! - "Half Awake"

Oh! Things Are So Corruptible heads in a lot of different directions, many of them hard 'n heavy, but there's a playfulness to it that acts as an aural welcome mat. Part of that is drummer/vocalist Etienne Gaillochet's lightly accented tenor voice. He's a charismatic lil' bastard; you believe him no matter how sweetly melodic ("My Own Delight") or creepily arcane ("The Sailor") his melodies get. The warm mix is pretty inviting too -- very few rough edges, but far from crystal clear. Heavy rock records are rarely this friendly.

Beehoover - Heavy Zooo (Exile On Mainstream, 2008)

I desperately want to believe that all of the songs on Beehoover's second LP Heavy Zooo (sic) have been adopted as modern-day nationalist anthems in their native Germany. Smiling blonde children would march in the streets singing "Someone exchanged my pillow for a moldy camembert/Making my head feel all soft and furry," banging their heads in unison as the earth cowers under the mighty fuzz of Beehoover's guitar-less riff attack. It's a bizarre vision, one that I imagine that bassist/vocalist Ingmar Petersen and drummer Claus-Peter Hamisch would approve of.  

Beehoover - "Heavy Zooo"
Beehoover - "Esophagus Overdrive"

Superficially similar to other fuzz-toned metal duos like Black Cobra and Big Business (before they added a guitarist), Beehoover might just be the better band. They've perfected Kyuss's sun-blanched desert rumble, and filled that lysergic sky with a variety of grooviness -- moaning background vox, nifty harmonics, snaky Tool-like "guitar" lines and Petersen's (sometimes) melodic roar, which has a weird cadence to it that could only come from a foreigner. Heavy Zooo's lyrics also reach new levels of sublime absurdity (My favorite, from "Dance Like a Volcano:" "Sound waves intrude your head / Compress your brain and force it down/With a sonic boom to the middle of your body/To form a triaxial hinge of sex oscillations and flexibility"). Beehoover take their silliness seriously. But this kind of stuff begins and ends with riffs. And good goddamn, those riffs. 

'Twould behoove you to visit Beehoover's website

1 comment:

China said...

I like "Imperial Catechism" a lot. It reminds me of Oneida a little bit. But, you know, with sax.