Mucca Pazza: Fun First, Safety Fifth
Mucca Pazza aren’t the only brass band who’re famous for putting on wild live shows, but they might be the most explosive of all of them. Their latest album Safety Fifth lists a total of 33 band members including thirteen horn players and eleven percussionists, plus a cheer squad whose job it is to round up any stragglers who might somehow have escaped being drawn in by the band’s mighty sound. They’re playing Public Assembly in Williamsburg at around 9 on June 14: it promises to be a crazy night.
Most of the tracks here are pretty short: it’s amazing how much fun they can pack into three minutes or less. False endings, unexpected twists and turns, a sense of suspense and drama are everywhere, sometimes rising apprehensively with a noir edge, sometimes with biting gypsy tonalities, other times with a deadpan Keystone Kops bustle. The album kicks off with Boss Taurus, a funky hip-hop-flavored feast of blazing minor-key brass, wry baritone sax and tuba, like if you cloned Hypnotic Brass Ensemble several times and then added that monster drumline plus an unhinged lead guitar. Monster Tango opens with surf drums, a playfully creepy spy theme spiced with comedic Spike Jones style blips and bleeps. Touch the Police moves quickly from Ronnie Kuller’s scurrying accordion and Jeff Thomas’ warily jazzy guitar to reach towering, cinematic heights, while Rabbits and Trees works an anxious, bittersweetly catchy Balkan vibe. Last Days mines a dynamically-charged Russian vibe, murky intro and balalaika-like mandolin break contrasting with towering, majestic horns.
Sexy Bull takes a ferocious, chromatic Serbian-style theme and makes it into monster surf rock; the tricky Marcia Anormale could be about a girl who’s definitely unbalanced…or just a twisted march theme. Opening as a twangy guitar lament, Tube Sock Tango adds flavors from Hawaii and the Balkans along with an anguished Greg Hirte violin solo.
Hang ‘Em Where I Can See ‘Em is the creepiest and best track here, an atmospheric spaghetti western horror movie theme that wouldn’t be out of place in the Beninghove’s Hangmen catalog. The album ends up with Mawi Wawi 5-0, a playfully explosive early 70s style detective theme and then Fanfare, which comes together slowly and enigmatically as a reggae tune. It’s hard to imagine a more eclectically entertaining band than these people – all three dozen or so of them.