Again, the pendulum swings. Earlier this year I was really into lots of off-the-map, experimental stuff, but with the new Foo Fighters, TV on the Radio, and Radiohead albums simmering in the changer, my current playlist looks very post-90s hipster, indeed. Although it is easy to find an ear for anticipated new releases by longstanding favorite bands, what has my attention right now are a couple of seemingly obscure albums I pulled from a Pandora jag from a last month.
Finding an album that speaks to you through chance encounters like this can often be rewarding, especially when an obscure group stands the test of time. Obviously, this happened for me with Mew a few years ago, and one of the reasons that I hold them is such high esteem is because they have a distinctive approach that they execute with conviction. I’m always on the lookout for these kinds of bands.
Mafia, by Danish band Epo-555, is too obscure even for a Wikipedia listing at this point, but still they came across my Pandora channel through the Mew seed. Epo-555 is sort of shoegazish, and shares a certain starlit layering and breathy vocal delivery with Mew. Although hints of The Church’s rubbery guitar riffs periodically poke through (re: Under the Milky Way), my trepidation is that Epo-555 maybe sounds a bit too much like an underproduced Mew in my mind, at least for now. This is not necessarily bad, but Mafia may not distinguish itself enough to end up being a classic in the long run.
By far, though, my favorite of the two albums is a 2003 album called NeveroddoreveN (cleverly palindromic, that) by I Monster. Although the tune Hey, Mrs. immediately grabbed my attention on Pandora, initially the album, when taken as a whole, seemed to lack cohesion. As I have continued to listen to it in its entirety, though, its eclectic approach to electro-psychedelic pop has emerged as part of the album’s appeal. As a result it resists clear, concise description. Here are some attempts that seem to both sum up and contradict any given moment on the album:
NeveroddoreveN is an autotuned carnival sideshow.
NeveroddoreveN is the soundtrack to a 50s commercial with T. Rex on guitar.
NeveroddoreveN does not play favorites between bottleneck slide guitar and vocoder.
NeveroddoreveN is electro-vaudevillian.
NeveroddoverN owes equally to both Portishead and The Beatles.
NeveroddoreveN is broadly psychedelic and beautifully sinister.
These ambiguous aphorisms are meant to pique interest more than anything else. It is more important to mention that NeveroddoreveN has grown on me, a surefire sign of long-term interest. I find myself singing various tracks at seemingly random times, and I am starting to look forward to it when it comes around in the player. These are the clearest indicators that there is something going on with I Monster.