I know you’re wondering, so here it is: Zmrzlina is the Czech
word for ice cream. I don’t think that they are from the
Czech Republic though, they claim to be from San Francisco,
a place where most bands are afforded more than their fair
share of eccentric peculiarities. Zmrzlina claims
to be an “art band.” Now, I used to think I knew what that
meant. Usually, it meant that the only people who could listen
to such… music… were those sorts of people who were willing
to suffer through any sort of wretched recorded noise to prove
beyond any shadow of a doubt to their other rich snobbish
friends that they were indeed “avant garde.” (Imagine me making
finger quotes in the air when you read avant garde. It will
make it seem like I can lay some legitimate claim to musical
professorship. You can even imagine that I have a bookcase
behind me containing all the recordings of Philip Glass or
Arnold Schoenberg and that my hair doesn’t look like it has
been combed since 1968, the year I first dropped acid.
You know, if it helps.)
At the root of it though, are some would-be homeless people
being paid to bang on pots and send bags of marbles down a
flight of metal stairs while some overrated-genius, sound
engineer captures it all on tape.
But I could be wrong. They could be ball bearings.
The first song on Katastrophe Vol. 3 should dispel
any thoughts about art bands. “Supermarket Radio” is basically
a spoken word techno song whose lyrics appear to have been
lifted from a ‘90s version of a Mickey Spillane novel.
Ok, so that’s weird, but is it art? (arte?) The next few
songs sound like Last Splash-era Breeders and
what might happen if Fred Schneider of The B-52’s
had fronted the Pixies. I’m not sure which of their
female vocalists it is who sings on “Schoolgirls”, but she
sounds EXACTLY like Kim Deal used to before she smoked
too many cigarettes and ruined that sweet, angelic voice.
Sigh. (I will use this as my opportunity to implore you to
not buy Title TK, the new Breeders album. Kim
can’t hold a key anymore, and the band is so lo-fi that you
feel compelled to go out to the garage and unplug your son’s
guitar amp. But you have no son, he has no amp, and you’re
listening in your car. I would write a review for it but
I can’t find the energy to hate it enough to thrash it.) Anyway,
whoever this girl is, I could listen to her sing Biz Markie’s
Greatest Hits (if such an unholy abortion actually existed)
and not grow tired of listening. “Psychobabble” sounds suspiciously
like the Pixies and is probably the song I like best.
It incorporates a musical trick of playing two competing melodies
that alternate between harmony and dissonance. Just when
you think they’ve gotten out of key, they draw everything
back in line. I also like the way in which they make their
bass guitar suddenly play a few bars of this competing melody
and then have it slip back into the bass line. It is surprisingly
and pleasantly complex. “Kill The Martini Drinker” also sounds
Pixie-ish, but a little more punk than most of their
music was. After that however, the album loses its punk and
its funk and trades it in for the mopey aimlessness of Division
Bell-era Pink Floyd, which, for those who don’t
know, is the point long past when the Floyds should have retired,
preserving the legitimacy of their music; shielding it from
their later, middle-aged meanderings. After a couple of weeks
of listening to this album, I had lost any interest in the
last three songs, and I didn’t really care for Creek Lullaby
Judging from the content of this CD alone, I would hazard
to guess that Zmrzlina makes any old music they feel
like without regard to genre or a highly discriminate audience,
and that’s just fine with me. As a music consumer, I would
be willing to tolerate three or four tracks that I’m not likely
to care for if, from album to album, Zmrzlina keeps
their music fresh and innovative with little bits of pop-punk-funk-techno
to keep their artistic aspirations grounded in blue-collar
sensibility. They do that a few times on “Katastrophe Vol.
3”. Overall, I can see myself picking this out of the stack
for a quick spin every now and then, but I find myself wanting
more of what it only occasionally delivers.
- Supermarket Radio
- Sutro Tower
- Creek Lullaby
- Kill the Martini Drinker
- C Song
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