By: Dennis Cook
Weird don't usually swing this bloody hard! From the suited Yellow Submarine-like beastie throwing the horns on the cover to the electric vibraphone crunch inside (not to mention further subconscious stoking imagery from Thom Self) to the Butthole Surfers-esque, uh, singing, the latest from Mike Dillon's Go-Go Jungle is unabashedly "other." Dillon's jib is cut WAY different than the other monkeys brachiating around music, and we're goddamn lucky to have him – a flexed, unwavering warrior for the punk rock ethos married to startlingly kinetic musicianship. Roaring like vintage Black Flag era Henry Rollins lit up by some new upper drug, banging mallets on all manner of plinking, clanging objects, Mike D and his coconspirators - JJ Jungle (bass, vocals, keys) and Go-Go Ray (drums) – have generated one of this year's grandest rackets, a work that infuses jazz and rock with a two-fingered salute backed by as much brains as brawn.
In some ways, Rock Star Bench Press (released February 10 on Hyena Records) is the holy/unholy meeting of the Modern Jazz Quartet with The Minutemen, D.C. go-go hump with Public Image Ltd. brute sophistication, Tortoise swoon mixed with Beat Poet glossolalia. Yet, none of these ancestors would likely have produced this sound. As the wide, toothy mouth on the cover suggests, Go-Go Jungle masticate influences and burp up something redolent of their unique stomach acid. By turns sexy and mean, hypnotic and battering, Bench Press pushes limits, their own and the listeners', too. Calling out liars and cheats, they also remember to shout, "Dance, motherfuckers!" with alarming regularity. "I can't do what I'm told!" roars Dillon on "Sack O' Sheet," and misbehavior is a cornerstone of their philosophy. But, this isn't just wild hairs and rebellion. There's real love for serious playing and musical sophistication hiding in the clamor. While you're snapping your neck into chiropractic agony and throwing the horns it's easy to miss how much is going on inside these thirteen marvelous salvos, but step off the dance floor for a minute and take a good, hard listen and you'll find some of the smartest thugs to ever muscle sound around.
The groundwork laid on 2007's Battery Milk (see JamBase review here) comes to fulminating, invigorating fruition on Rock Star Bench Press, an album that encapsulates and comments on the justifiable rage of the G.W. Bush years AND gives us tools for breaking down our psychic walls as we move into what we're all hoping is a brighter fucking tomorrow, shaking off our rage with mad laughter and booty vibrating vigor.
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