THE DISCO BISCUITS | THEY MISSED THE PERFUME

Review One | Mr. Donald Butke

Review Two | David Calarco

Review Three | Trooper McCue


The Disco Biscuits have worked tirelessly over the years to carve out their sound on the touring circuit. Endless shows and tours have provided the stage for them to interact with fans and experiment with their sound. On They Missed The Perfume, the band’s third release, they have taken that knowledge into a totally different medium, the studio. This provides a more synthetic platform for TDB to perform and experiment with, and the technological advances shine through on this album.

Many of their shows can be characterized by endless segues of inverted songs finishing versions from nights before and starting versions to be completed in the future. The meat of their shows are their extended techno-infused trance jams which generally start in space and build up to a fist pumping, elevating peak. Sometimes these jams lack individuality and are tough to separate from one to the next. However, it is what’s inside these jams that is so intriguing on this album. It seems that The Disco Biscuits have composed songs from jams here. Take "Mindless Dribble" for example, (the lyrics of the album are taken from this song, making it the default title track), a song that is traditionally made apparent when drummer Sam Altman breaks out of a jam to pound three deep drum kicks. On the album, the approach is more electronic and more condensed. This song, which at one point in its existence was somewhat of a rock anthem, has been transformed into an electronic mix of dub and trance melodies. The signature Brownstein bass bombs are reduced to a shadow of their live sound. Furthermore, it is no more apparent on this album then on this song just how the traditional Bisco tension and release jam can be defined.

The Disco Biscuits used many months at Belyea Power Plant to achieve the sound they were looking for on this album. Instead of overjamming and extending songs, they condensed jams, and wrote three new songs while in the studio. "Highwire," the opening number is short and incredibly catchy, it makes you wonder how far away a band like this could actually be from becoming a boy band? With some MTV or radio exposure, who knows what the next generation of pop-stars will look like. Another pop-inspired effort is felt during “Home Again”. This multi-layered song from Brownstein's "Maui Project" seemed to grow in the studio, and has the greatest production feel on the album.

Admist the new technology and instrumentation, “Haleakalah Crater” demonstrates TDB drawing on some of their more traditional influences. The song has a Floydian overtone to it, but it is the solid unwavering bass line, and ethereal keyboard work of Aaron Magner that has the listener floating above the clouds, hearing but not seeing the waves crashing below.

The Disco Biscuits have always been a band willing to take a chance on introducing a new instrument or a new style to evolve what their current sound is. That theory stands true to form on They Missed The Perfume, as we see the Biscuits attempting to overcome their one glaring weakness, their vocals, by overshadowing it with what they do best, blending traditional instrumentation with new technology to create this heavy hitting techno infused rock which we like to call “Bisco”.

- "Mr." Donald Butke


The Disco Biscuits third studio album represents a definite departure from their previous two albums. What makes They Missed the Perfume so unique? Well, just look to the words of the band members themselves.

Bassist Marc Brownstein explains, “We approached making the album from a very different stance than we ever had before….we decided to make the album digitally, using a Macintosh G4 and Digital Performer 2.7 (a state-of-the-art electronic music software program).” Instead of improvising and recording tracks in a live studio setting, Digital Performer enabled the band to feed their instruments into the computer, loop them, and have other band members play over the previously recorded parts individually.

As explained by drummer Sam Altman, “The guys would take 16 or 32 bar sections of the drums and play licks and song parts into the computer, which looped the section and recorded every take as it happened.” Able to then go back, and adjust, tweak, and accent the different sections, this methodology left the door wide open to possibilities. Using strictly digital drum tracks and several MIDI bass lines, the album has a decidedly different flavor than The Disco Biscuits previous releases and live shows--a new idea of Biscuit music all together, a sort of musical jigsaw puzzle, one which will serve as new improvisational launching points in the live arena.

Secondly, what differentiates They Missed the Perfume from their critically acclaimed sophomore effort, The Uncivilized Area, is the fact that the album is tied together with similar musical rhythms and themes throughout. While Uncivilized served as a collage of the styles and sounds of a live Biscuit show, They Missed the Perfume represents a much more conceptual effort. Emerging from the grouping of songs is a true “album” that listens perfectly from start to finish (and then right back through again.)

The musical centerpiece of the album is the ten plus minute live classic "Mindless Dribble." What first started as an over twenty-five track at the inception of their studio work, "Mindless Dribble" was transformed into not only a compact musical gem in itself, but also into the album’s first two songs of “Highwire,” and “Spacebird Matingcall,” and the album closer, “I Remember When.” These three tracks, all based on the faster dub and jungle rhythms of the expansive first "Dribble" take, unite the album with similar digital beats and reoccurring chord progressions and melodies from bassist Brownstein, keyboardist Aron Magner, and guitar virtuoso Jon Gutwillig.

The other two tracks on the album, "Haleakala Crater" and "Home Again" represent live songs taken into the studio and transformed into well produced and professional sounding tracks, led by front-of-house sound engineer, Jon Lesser. "Haleakala," (complete with beach, wind and bird effects) transports the listener to dawn on Maui, as the band seeks out the mysteries of nature through haunting musical expression and impeccable composition. "Home Again" is the most accessible track on the album, featuring beautiful three and four part harmonies from the oft maligned vocalists. Highlighting guest female vocalist Erica Lynn Greunerg, these harmonies are sung over an amazingly catchy bass anchored groove. "Home Again" is a shining piece of songwriting in the middle section of the album, and one whose guitar solo alone is enough to take it to the top of the charts.

The climax of "Mindless Dribble’s" infectious dub trance jam bleeds into the album’s finale “I Remember When.” Potentially referring to the previous five tracks, elements of all these songs re-emerge in this album-tying-together track. This "deja-vu-esque" section leads into a unique and triumphant build which ends the album with an exclamation point. This final track serves as a perfect lead-in to the beginning of the album “Highwire,” completing the cyclical musical journey.

Differing so much from previous sounds and efforts, They Missed the Perfume can be appreciated by all types of music listeners with its layered improvisation, complex composition, and professional production. It’s the hottest new offering from one of the nations hottest bands, The Disco Biscuits. Here’s a nod to a job well done.

David Calarco



Listening tips for They Missed The Perfume:
    1. Listen to the album on repeat, and be sure listen to it twice all the way through
    2. Hit the “bass boost” button on your CD player (or make the equivalent EQ adjustments to increase the bottom end)

As you should know after one listen, They Missed The Perfume is radically different than anything The Disco Biscuits have ever released. The lack of drums alone gives the album a decidedly electronic feel to it. And in the looping and sampling style of electronic music, the album itself is cyclical in nature. It begins with its theme -- "Highwire" -- probably the most “Biscuit-y” sounding track on the album, boasting real bass lines and a familiar melody which reappears in several more places on the album. And it ends six tracks later almost right back where it begins.

"Highwire" may be the most “biscuit-y”, but "Spacebirdmatingcall" is my favorite track on the album. The rhythmic changing of time signatures gives the whole song very defined forward motion – “chugging” if you will, marching and building while the swirling and rising melody line brings up lost images of adventures past. The whole thing makes me feel like I’m living between the pages of Atlas Shrugged. A sound that’s both evolved and clean and yet feels at its core like the ultimate in primal expression.

"Haleakala..." If you’ve ever been there, maybe you can understand. Somehow the Biscuits managed to capture the spirit of the ancient volcano god and translate his awesome beauty and quiet fury into 3 minutes of what is at once the most tranquil song they have and the most intense. Picture yourself in one of those snow globes, with swirling, peaceful lines floating all around you... Until someone takes a sledgehammer to the glass and your whole existence shatters into controlled chaos.

The second most “biscuit-y” song on the album is "Home Again." Featuring that classic Brownstein backbone that makes Bisco what it is, "Home Again’s" smooth grooves make it easy to nominate for Most Likely to Be The Single and will do a lot to ensure that this track shows up on many people's list of favorites. It will certainly show up on mine.

"Mindless Dribble" is the meat of the album. It is here that we are treated to one of the band’s signature (and most elusive) styles – the dub jam. From the drop into dub onward you’re on a slow, drippy journey through the land of bisco. Haunting melodies come at you from all directions. One minute your head is about to explode and the next minute you’re dancing on a beach without a care in the world. Somewhere, faintly, you hear echos of the first track, "Highwire," but they’re gone before you have a chance to acknowledge them. And the sounds lift you up, carry you far away over the clouds and drop you right into the middle of a medeival line dance.

And then you take a deep breath, brush yourself off, and start all over again.

Trooper McCue

[Published on: 3/22/01]

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