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Strange
Things In Night
Pidgeon English Records
www.pidgeonenglish.com


Strange? I dunno, I watched Takashi Miike's Visitor Q last night. Now that's what I call strange. That aside, during my research for this review, (no press kit, or it got lost along the way) I came across a fair number of reviews that all seemed to say pretty much the same thing: this sucks because it's trying to unsuccessfully rip off Bauhaus, or it rocks because it was influenced by Bauhaus. I admit to being blissfully ignorant of Bauhaus, it being from an era of my life where music was just something that came out of a radio.

However, I can at least recognize the dark, new wave vibe here, (or goth if you want to look at it that way) amongst other things, that one wouldn't necessarily think go together (like a horn section paired with synthesizers?) but the one thing that keeps sticking out to me is how every now and then I hear something that sounds like surf rock, namely the intros to "Tri-Suicide" and "Armistice Day." There's surf guitar galore on those two. The whole of the album is also possessed of another unexpected attribute: It isn't even remotely edgy. The vocals and playing styles, while spacy and psychedelic, are so completely relaxed that they just barely emerge from under the hazy veil of marijuana smoke, not burst forth from the restrictive confines of the mental asylum from which I mistakenly assumed they must inhabit.

In that regard, I can definitely see this as total stoner music. It's not so weird that it would induce a bad trip either. (Well, let's hope anyway…) The epic-length songs are applicable to the psychenaut's attention span as well; I remember an episode in college where my roommates decided to take 'shrooms before embarking on a single trip around the block. For six hours. The thing that blew their mind the most was that I, the sober one, had been playing the same video game the entire time they were gone. The unaffected, however, may find themselves with an attention deficit while trying to stay engaged with some of these overly-long jams. I listened to this album primarily in my car whilst my brain was engaged with more pressing activities and so I didn't mind the length. Listening to it while sitting naked in a small, vinyl chair may present a bigger challenge though.

I have a couple of technical issues with the album: at times, there are way too many instruments competing for attention. The end result is a jumbled mess. The other is the muted and occasionally tuneless/keyless vocals that sound like the lead singer is standing about ten feet behind the drum kit. I'm not going to harp on the eclectic collection of instruments since they are, after all, strange, and don't really detract from the experience.

The greatest strength of this album is its eerie, echoing ambience that reminds me of the theremin-heavy soundscapes of "Forbidden Planet." These echoes and reverbs resonate like the plaintive cry of solitude that asks: "Is anybody else alive?" But, the dark mood suggests that a response may be worse than the silence.

-JD

1. Ghosts of Germany
2. Plant Life
3. 1001 Erotic Nights
4. Little Pram
5. Tri-Suicide
6. Armistice Day
7. Truth and Reconciliation
8. Evening Alarm
9. Over There


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Mike Doughty



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