TEENAGE BOATPEOPLE – Add Havoc

Agua Prieta

There’s something of a mild Mothers Of Invention aura in several of the tracks comprised by Add Havoc, the latest spurt of insanely rational inspiration by Teenage Boatpeople (Jeff Johnson, Milo Fine and Tim Mauseth). The violation of any rule of plausibility in the realm of vocal expression is pursued by Johnson, who seems to intone (ha!) his lines from inside an electric razor and plays the guitar with constant cross-pollinations of numskull jangle, dissonant sapience and poor-man’s Glenn Branca-like attitude (hey – all of these are positives). This lays the bricks for a sonic edifice where Fine’s polymorphic dynamics and off-centre multi-instrumentalism constitute the touch of refined schizophrenia that was necessary for the whole recipe to taste as good as it does. Mauseth’s pumping on bass and his contributions on various kinds of low and high tuned string instruments (plus harmonica and “rhythm programming”) reach for the aberrant divisions of regular rock (and dub, and ethno) impulses, appearing as most logic choices for a music that refuses common sense but sounds entirely connected to a scheme that is probably much larger than this jug of erudite rumpus.

Throughout the album the lingering impression is rather clear-cut, despite the semi-abnormality of the components. Rooted in deformed riffage, with large amounts of indiscipline providing the push needed for discarding any humdrum expediency from the beginning (not that we had any doubt), the features that any superficial listener would find despicable are all there to prove the opposite. Namely, that one could even try and fantasize sing-along boldness without remotely understanding a single pitch of what is being emitted, or that the abolishment of lackluster invariability in post-post-post whatchamacallit is authentically implemented when the musicians can play and are aggravated enough to convey the accurate dose of sardonic toxins. Mix the green-onion pace of the title track with the quasi-onomatopoeic tinkle-tap-and-squeal of the splendidly titled “Batta Bing, Batta Bam”; shake it fast and often for maximum fun.

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