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(37:30; Cuneiform Records)
It may have taken nearly forty years for this Chicago-based band to release their twentieth album, but one can only smile when seeing the title and the artwork. That it looks like it could be a release from another band from the same city is purely deliberate. The band have had a rather loose idea of membership over the years, with some people not playing on certain releases and musicians taking part never to appear anywhere else. The last album of theirs I heard was 2017’s ‘Putting Off Death’, and the three core members of the band from then are still here in Thymme Jones (vocals, guitar, drums, trumpet, synths, piano, autoharp, moog, glockenspiel), Dante Kester (bass, keyboards) and Jeff Libersher (guitar, bass, synthesizer, keyboards, ersatz cello) along with singer Carmen Armillas who actually appeared on that album as well, while multi-instrumentalist Amelie Morgan is back along with some guests. What we have here is a band who totally refuses to conform to anyone’s idea of what music should be like and create something which is catchy and poppy while also being RIO and quite challenging. They mix instruments which should never be played at the same time, with strange time signatures and clear vocals to create something which takes tips from the likes of Zappa, Residents, Art Zoyd, Henry Cow and Wire yet is always very much their own. The band describe it as “Harmony and dissonance, love and hate, oboes and drums... they all help to form this delicious and strange bedfellowship.”. This is all about accepting them on their own terms, as if the listener is prepared to do that then they will be richly rewarded as the band move in and out of rocky pop numbers with incredible hooks which just don’t sound like what anyone would expect. It is incredibly melodic, in a RIO way, with vocals which have pleasant melodies and one can only wonder what is going in their heads when they conjure up majesty like this. I love the story of one lat 90’s show when the band used a pre-recorded tape to segue from their song “Small World” into a hellish multitracked version of the Disney tune “It’s a Small World (After All)” (personally I think the song in its original form is hellish, as anyone who has taken their children on the ride will attest to) and during playback they simply left the stage and took seats at the bar. This is complex, complicated music with wonderful harmonies and hooks, and anyone who enjoys their music to be a little (ok, a lot) out of centre will find a great deal here to enjoy.
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