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No New Abnormal

Tag: musical satire

Os Mutantes: Sly Tropical Psychedelic Rock Legends Still Going Strong

Os Mutantes are best-known for jumpstarting the Brazilian psychedelic movement of the 60s. They sang in Portuguese and fractured English, putting a distinctively tropical, wryly humorous spin on the trippiest pop music of the era, a shtick that has become more lovingly satirical over the years. They enjoyed a resurgence back in the 90s and since then have never looked back…other than with their consistently skewed, gimlet-eyed take on classic American and British psychedelia from fifty years ago. Their latest album ZZYZX is streaming at Spotify.

They open the record with Beyond, a jangly, sparkling, Byrdsy twelve-string guitar psych-folk tune that could be legendary Dutch satirists Gruppo Sportivo. “Guilt and medication, you know, is the Catholic way of life,” frontman Sergio Dias sings, earnestly brooding: “To the end I dream by myself.” The music is spot-on Laurel Canyon, 1967: the lyrics, a facsimile that’s so close it’s actually quite laudable.

“How do you think you are all still alive, it is because I am there always by your side,” Dias insists in Mutant’s Lonely Night, a grimly crescendoing anthem, Henrique Peters;  river of organ behind the acoustic guitars, up to a bluesy solo from the bandleader. The Last Silver Bird starts out with jazzy chords and syncopation in the same vein as the Free Design, then the band very subtly shift it into gospel-inspired terrain.

The women in the band sing lead in Candy, a warped take on retro American soul – or just a ripoff of the Move doing the same thing, circa 1965. Gay Matters is a ridiculously unswinging faux-jazz spoof of this era’s confusion over gender roles– maybe that’s part of the joke. The band do the same with early 70s psychedelic funk in We Love You, right down to the warpy, flangey electric piano.

Window Matters is a spot-on early 70s John Lennon spoof and – maybe – a cautionary tale about society growing more and more atomized. “When you’re happy living in the box, closing doors, windows down, no one sees inside,” Dias warns. Por Que Nao is a bossa with woozy synth bass in place of the real thing, while the soul tune Tempo E Espacio is more authentically New Orleans than most American bands could approximate.

The album’s title track is its most ridiculously over-the-top song, a blues about aliens at Area 51. Is the closing number, Void, just a silly sendup of the meme of Indian takadimi counting language, or a genuinely apocalyptic shot across the bow? Dial up the record and decide for yourself.

An Iconic, Fearlessly Populist Brooklyn Band Releases Their Most Ambitious Album in Bushwick Saturday Night

If there’s any New York band who’ve earned a song about themselves, it’s Les Sans Culottes. It’s on their latest album, She is Tossed By the Waves But Does Not Sink, streaming at Bandcamp. That’s the Paris city motto, and there’s no small irony in that the same could be said for the band. Since the 90s, they’ve slowly expanded from their origins as the Spinal Tap of late 60s French ye-ye psychedelic pop, to become as eclectic as the New York borough they represent used to be before the blitzkrieg of out-of-state white yuppies and “luxury” condos. No other New York band have spoken out as witheringly or accurately against the blight of gentrification as this shapeshifting crew – in spot-on, slangy French, no less. They’re playing the album release show this Saturday night, June 2 at 10 PM at El Cortez in Bushwick. The show isn’t listed on the venue calendar, but if they charged $20 for Amy Rigby, this should be about half that or less.

Along the way, the group have weathered several lineup changes and even a lawsuit by a spinoff of the band. That the Sans Culottes brand would be worth taking to court speaks for itself. This latest edition, fronted by founder Clermont Ferrand, is the most stylistically eclectic ever. While there are a few songs that bring to mind late 60s Serge Gainsbourg or Françoise Hardy, the satire is subtler than ever. Their signature mockery of French would-be rockers stumbling through all sorts of American idioms is still there, but the songs span from lush new wave to Stonesy rock to faux funk, stadium anthems and the noir.

The opening track’s title, Eiffel Tour is a Franglais pun – in French, it’s Le Tour Eiffel. It’s as much a musical as lyrical spoof, a shuffling early 70s style French faux funk tune driven by keyboardist Benoit Bals’ trebly Farbisa over Jacques Strappe’s drums and M. Pomme Frite’s bass. It’s the band’s An American in Paris:

Je prends mon élan
Et parle en verlan
Nous sommes en terrasse

[This is tough to translate, and indicative of how clever this band’s lyrics are. The first couple of lines roughly equate to “I get up the nerve and talk in verlan,” a French counterpart to pig Latin from the late 80s Paris banlieu Arab ghetto. “Nous sommes en terrasse,” meaning literally “We’re on the terrace,” was a meme referring to how resolute the French remained in the wake of the 2015 massacre at the Charlie Hebdo office. In that context, it’s “We’re just chilling.”]

There’s more Bals on this album than any of the band’s previous releases. Case in point: the warbly Wurlitzer electric piano and swirly organ on the more authentically funky second number, which is also more musically than lyrically satirical.

Chuchotements Chinois (Chinese Whispers – a reference to the French obsession with the Cure, maybe?) sets Geddy Liaison’s Rolling Stones guitar and lush vocals from the band’s two women singers, Kit Kat Le Noir and Brigitte Bordeaux, over a coy new wave strut with a sly resemblance to a popular 80s hit by French band Indochine. The phony bossa De Rien is a cluelessly chipper breakup number complete with breathy boudoir vocals and loungey piano.

The glossy, synthy 80s-style Chibeca v. Chewbacca shoots a spitball at sleazy developers trying to rename New York neighborhoods: rebranding gritty, constantly shrinking Chinatown as part of shi-shi Tribeca isn’t quite as moronic as calling the South Bronx the Piano District, but it’s close.

The jaunty doo-wop rock of L’Histoire des Sans Culottes chronicles the band’s triumphs and tribulations:

NOUS AVONS EU DES IMITATEURS,
BANDES D’HOMMAGES, MAUVAIS DOPPELGÄNGERS
En manque évident de savoir faire
Ersatz inferieurs sorry ass loseurs

[We’ve had imitators
Tribute bands, bad doppelgangers
Who obviously couldn’t get things done…]

You don’t really need a translation for that last line, right?

Je Ne Sais Quoi pokes playful fun at French pronouns over a slightly less retro backdrop. Along with their Cure obsession, the French also have a rabid Stooges cult, which the band salute in Detroit Rock Cite – which actually sounds more like AC/DC with keys. Mismatched styles are also the joke in A La Mode, an ersatz Stones-flavored shout out to Prince. The band follow that with La Ballade de Johnny X, poking wistful fun at the femme fatale tradition as personified by noir acts like Juniore

The catchy, riff-rocking Je M’en Fous (I Don’t Give a Fuck) opens with the line “Tawdry Adieu ou Audrey Tautou” and stays just as amusing from there, with a snide reference to French misadventures in imperialism. In the Hall of the Ye Ye King (Agathe Bauer) is a mock-rock salute to the power of unlikely one-hit wonder Euro-pop. The album winds up on a surprisingly somber note with the lavish art-rock epic Aller Sans Retour (One Way Ticket). Your appreciation of this album will increase immeasurably if you speak French – check the band’s priceless lyrics page– but it’s not necessary. Look for this on the best albums of 2018 list at the end of the year if Trump doesn’t blow us all up by then. 

Rachael Kilgour’s Soaring Lyrical Brilliance Holds a Lincoln Center Crowd Rapt

“This is satire,” Rachael Kilgour grinned as she launched into He’ll Save Me, the spot-on, searingly funny centerpiece of her most recent ep, Whistleblower’s Manifesto: Songs for a New Revolution, at her headline debut earlier this month at Lincoln Center .She explained that there have been instances where booking agents heard snippets of her music and passed on her, thinking that she was a Christian songwriter. Testament to the power of that satire.

“Mothers on welfare? Healthcare? Don’t you think I know better than to hand out rewards to sinners?” she sang as laughter broke out everywhere. And the punchline,“I know I’ll get my way, when it comes to Judgment Day,” was as subtly sinister as Kilgour possibly could have made it. Considering that she was following a brief performance by a generic folkie from Philadelphia whose own brand of corporate Prosperity Christianity that song lampoons, it made even more of an impact. It’s hard to think of a more deliciously subversive moment on any midtown Manhattan stage in 2016.

.While there are echoes of both Tift Merritt and Loretta Lynn in Kilgour’s resonant, nuanced mezzo-soprano, the closest comparison is Roy Orbison: Kilgour soars upward into the same kind of otherworldly, angst-ridden melismas. And she has the material to match that transcendent voice. The ache and anguish as she hit the chorus of Round and Round – which she sang a-cappella at the end, to drive it home – held the crowd rapt. Likewise, I Pray, a tender wish song for a lost soul, gave Kilgour a platform to swoop up into her most Orbisonesque chorus. Later she went back to simmeringly savage mode for a number that was ostensibly about forgiveness but turned out to be more of a kiss-off anthem. And In America, another satirical one where she finally dropped the smiley-faced Republican ingenue act for reality, drew the night’s most applause.

The two most heartwrenching numbers were dedicated to her stepdaughter. Kilgour herself teared up during the first one, and by the time she was done, there probably wasn’t a dry eye in the crowd. Kilgour explained that she’d gone through a divorce a couple of years ago, “And that sucked!” She related how her earlier material has a populist, global focus, and that writing herself through the pain was a new experience, one that she’s still getting used to. Kilgour wants to break down the barriers between performer and audience, which harks back to a hallowed folk music tradition, where pretty much everybody in the village was in the band. Ultimately, that leads to the kind of community-building Kilgour has focused on thus far in her relatively young career.

In context, the gallows humor of the catchy, swaying Will You Marry Me took on new and unintentionally ironic resonance. The rest of the set mixed low-key, simmering ballads with the kind of anthemic acoustic rock Kilgour does so well, many of the numbers drawn from her brand-new album Rabbit in the Road.

These free Lincoln Center Atrium shows, as the space’s program director, Jordana Phokompe explained beforehand, are designed to offer something for everyone. And she’s right – they do. Tonight’s performance at 7:30 PM features ecstatically fun Colombian-American psychedelic cumbia band MAKU Soundsystem. Considering how well their previous Lincoln Center performances have drawn, you should get to the space on Broadway between 62nd and 63rd early if you’re going.

Comic Relief at the Expense of the Goths…If There Are Any Left

This is just too funny to leave sitting on the hard drive. Drop whatever you’re doing and grab a free download of Raleigh rocker Scott Phillips a.k.a. the Monologue Bombs‘ single Eighties Night. Hardly ever does a spoof this cruelly spot-on come over the transom here: cheesy fake Beethoven, Trenchcoat Mafia faux-angst and a perfect snapshot of what we had to endure at certain venues until the goth thing timed out and was supplanted by emo. The b-side sounds like Mellencamp at his darkest, but with keys instead of guitars. The Monologue Bombs open a good twinbill on December 29 at 6 (six) PM at Freddy’s, followed at 7:30 by iconic noir chanteuse Bliss Blood ‘s creepy torch song project with similarly dark flamenco-jazz/noir guitarist Al Street.

Grace McLean Steals the Show at Lincoln Center

There’s no one in the world who sounds exactly like Grace McLean. With a stiletto sense of humor, a sharp sense of history, an irresistibly infectious stage presence and a quirky, individualistic sense of melody that’s nothing short of avant garde yet incredibly catchy,  she charmed and seduced a young, energized, very drama-school-looking crowd at Lincoln Center Wednesday night with her inimitable mix of bouncy loopmusic and savagely deadpan between-song banter. McLean’s lyrical references and tunesmithing may be in the here and now, but her sensibility is pure, early-80s edgy downtown NYC punk performance art. Among more contemporary artists, she brings to mind both Killy Dwyer and Tammy Faye Starlite.

Her genius is that she draws the crowd in with her catchy, dancing hooks – her timing, rhythmwise and otherwise is as amazing as her music is strangely compelling. Then, when she’s got your head bobbing, she smacks you right there. She’s got an opera about Hildegard von Bingen currently in development, and this time out chose instead to do a song inspired by a Hildegard counterpart, St. Ursula. As McLean told it, that woman led a thousand virgins on a pilgimage to the Holy Land…where they were intercepted by Huns, who killed them all. “That’s what you had to do to be famous in the eleventh century if you were a woman,” McLean mused. But that also meant achieving the pinnacle of success for a medieval girl: “You got to join in everlasting marriage with god,” McLean beamed.

She performed most of her set by layering loops of vocals against each other and then singing over them, an art that takes split-second timing and perfect pitch to pull off, and she made it look easy. She opened the set seated at the piano for a single number, joined by a rhythm section and backup singers who’d return at the end of the show. The first couple of songs had a suspiciously sardonic urban top 40 flavor, but exactly what McLean was spoofing, if anything, wasn’t clear.

From there, things got interesting in a hurry. Her cover of Heather Christian’s Wild Animals – employing rhymes from Gertrude Stein’s lone children’s book – was as funny as it was disconcertingly trippy. McLean’s own Natural Disaster raised the gallows humor factor, something that would permeate much of the rest of the show. A mighty, anthemic number titled Where Is the White Light evoked My Brightest Diamond as McLean took a swipe at new age cluelessness, while the ethereally crescendoing waves of a diptych a little later on brought to mind Bjork at her artsiest and weirdest. Existential angst was everywhere, particularly in a later number whose momentary refrain was “I’m sick of not having the courage to be an absolute nobody.”

Elsewhere, McLean had plenty of fun with guy/girl dynamics, particularly when the music lapsed toward faux “R&B,” most memorably with a couple of what were ostensibly diary entries from her gradeschool years. She wound up the show by finding the missing link between a couple of iconic Beatles and Stones songs, closing with a rousingly Memphis-flavored take of her big va-voom crowd-pleaser My Friend’s Roommate and then a Broadway standard where she pulled out all the stops to show off a powerful, brassy mezzo-soprano. It’s impossible to think of an edgier, more entertaining way for Lincoln Center to introduce this year’s Great American Songbook series.

Avi Fox-Rosen and Raya Brass Band Slay at Rock Shop

“Love is a word you use so you don’t hurt the feelings of the ones who like to say it more than you,” Avi Fox-Rosen sang nonchalantly, without a hint of sarcasm, over a bouncy, singalong, pseudo-theatrical pop tune, early in his album release show Thursday night at Rock Shop. “Love is as suspect as me,” he added later on. That’s Fox-Rosen in a nutshell. He’s sort of akin to Elvis Costello with better guitar chops. Both are purist pop tunesmiths with an encyclopedic bag of licks and ideas. But where Costello goes for lyrical gymnastics and umpteen levels of meaning, Fox-Rosen tells sardonically and sometimes grimly funny, aphoristic stories, and slips you the shiv when you least expect it. For example, the organ soul song that opened the set, So Fucking Happy: the implication is that this may be the only time in the guy’s life that he’s not miserable.

That song is sort of the title track to Fox-Rosen’s December album, his final release in a year that saw him put out an album a month (all up at his Bandcamp page as name-your-price downloads). That he actually pulled off this feat is impressive in itself; that the material he released was so strong catapulted him to the top of the Best Albums of 2013 page here. He’d pulled an excellent band together for this show – a melodic, eclectic basssist, the similarly diverse and tasteful Chris Berry on drums and Dave Melton channeling 60s soul grooves on organ and electric piano: these guys really get Fox-Rosen’s incessant references to decades of rock history.

The night’s second song was Baby, a twinkling lullaby from February’s ep that poked fun at the lure of returning to the womb: Fox-Rosen drew plenty of laughs from its “Suck and shit and sleep” mantra. On album, Fox-Rosen’s apprehensive playground narrative Ugly Duckling begins as a cabaret tune – this time, the band made fluid new wave out of it until they took it doublespeed into creepy, snarling, guitar-fueled circus rock territory. “The other ducks didn’t give a fuck, Brother Duck cursed my rotten luck,” Fox-Rosen intoned, deadpan and cool. But this little duck turns out to have unexpected bite.

College had a similarly tongue-in-cheek sarcasm, Fox-Rosen bemoaning his “worthless degree in esoterica” and the fact that living at home with the ’rents doesn’t exactly compare with studying in Paris. He kept a low-key but corrosive political edge going – “Are you proud to be American?” he challenged over faux-celebratory Huey Lewis-style 80s anthemic radio rock, Melton taking an lush, swirly organ solo.

Then Fox-Rosen shifted gears, showing off some impressively creepy surf rock chops and took a searing, intense, noisy solo on Everybody Dies, the most macabre song of the evening, Melton adding the occaasional jarring slasher-flick riff. They lost the crowd on the song after that – sometimes Fox-Rose’s satire can be so subtle that it’s hard to tell when he’s being serious or not, or a mixture of both. But he got everybody’s attention with the savage God Who Lives in Your Head, who’s a real sourpuss, watching you like a spycam and digging up as much dirt as he can.  He closed with Where Is My Parade, underscoring the song’s twisted carnivalesque side, a snide spoof of rockstar (or wannabe rockstar) narcissism. Fox-Rosen is at Bar Chord, 1008 Corteyou Rd. (Stratford/Coney Island Ave.), in Ditmas Park on Feb 6 at 9.

Afterward, Raya Brass Band gathered on the floor in front of the stage rather than on it, drew the crowd in and then played their asses off. “Do you do originals as well as covers?” a woman in the crowd wanted to know.  Trumpeter Ben Syversen paused: “We’ve been playing mostly originals, although we also play a lot of the traditional repertoire,” he hastened to add. That’s this band’s appeal in a nutshell: you’d assume that they were from East Serbia if you didn’t know they were actually from Brooklyn. A nonstop gig schedule over the past couple of years has made this scorching Balkan five-piece group incredibly tight. Syversen and alto saxophonist Greg Squared use extended technique – microtones, slides and lickety-split doublestops – that would make most jazz players green with envy. Tuba player Don Godwin’s funky, surprisingly bright tuba pulse fueled the nonstop groove along with the ominously booming clip-clop clatter of the standup tapan bass drum. Ostensibly there were sound issues with Matthew “Max” Fass’ accordion, but out in the crowd his swirls and rapidfire riffage were cutting through just fine.

A lot of the traditional material from throughout the Balkans pulses along on menacingly chromatic vamps, and Raya Brass Band does that as well, although their songs are a lot more complex. They don’t rely on a simple verse/chorus format, they love tricky time signatures and they jam the hell out of the songs. By the time the first explosive minor-key number was over, Greg Squared had already shredded his first reed. By the end of the set, there was something in Syversen’s mouthpiece – a piece of him, maybe? Talk about giving 100% onstage. The staccato twin riffage between the two horns had an icepick intensity, the two sometimes doubling their lines, sometimes pairing off harmonically. Fass led the band through an unexpectedly lush, lingering ballad that took all kinds of wary twists and turns before they brought back the marauding minor-key assault. The high point of the many originals was a slinky number with an austere Ethiopian flavor. The most exhilarating of the traditional tunes was a lickety-split dash through Mom Bar, which does not have anything to do with your mother although drinking is definitely involved. Raya Brass Band are at Golden Festival Saturday night at 11 PM and then play a 2 AM set at Freddy’s afterward.

Avi Fox-Rosen’s Monthly Album Marathon Reaches the Finish Line

Avi Fox-Rosen set out this past January to release an album a month this year. That he achieved his goal is noteworthy enough; that the music has been so consistently good is mind-boggling, except for the fact that he’s always been a strong songwriter and a hell of a guitarist. Did he simply have a huge backlog of unrecorded songs waiting and decide to get it all out there this year, or are all of them brand new? The answer isn’t clear. Whatever the case, you can guess for yourself and enjoy everything he released because it’s all up at his Bandcamp page as a name-your-price download..

Fox-Rosen approached this project thematically. January’s album contemplated getting old, February’s was about love, followed by – in monthly order – money, stupidity (April’s album, the pick of the litter), fairy tales, teen angst, nationalism, sex, religion and fear (the existential kind),

November’s album focuses on family dysfunction. Oh boy, does it ever. Fox-Rosen’s tunesmithing is as eclectic as always, his cynicism at redline as it has been throughout much of this past year. And so is his snide sense of humor.The most LMFAO funny song here is Eat. It’s a noir cabaret tune about a mother who equates food with love. But that’s only part of the story. One of Fox-Rosen’s most effective tropes is to take a straightforwardly comedic song and use it to deliver savage sociopolitical commentary, and this is a prime example. Halfway through, he turns the story away from the ridiculous mom and launches into a litany of ridiculous food, a parody of fussy foodie trends. The jokes are too good to spoil.

Together Again is a sardonic gospel rock song about a family that likes to bond: their bonding mechanism happens to be fighting, the physical kind. We Ain’t Never Gonna Forget (What a Shit You Were) is a new wave tune and much as it it’s a little obvious, it’s irresistibly funny:

Well you were just two feet tall
You took out your penis and pissed on the wall
And everybody in town thought I cussed
When I said, “Hey, that little shit is pissing on the wall!”

Intertwined, a pensive folk-rock ballad, is a lot more subtle, contemplating some of the quieter ways a child’s individuality gets crushed. The album ends with one of the longer songs in this project, Demon Inside (Corporate Family), a big, enveloping art-rock anthem set in a surreal, futuristic, grey Orwellian world that is actually the here and now, Fox-Rosen offering a quietly revolutionary message. On another level, it might also be a Coldplay parody.

December’s album hints at being triumphant coda to all of this, but the central theme is rockstar narcissism: an easy target, and Fox-Rosen takes full advantage. Listen closely and decide for yourself which of these parodies might be outtakes from previous themes.  As he will do occasionally, Fox-Rosen occasionally drops his guard – in the first song, So Fucking Happy, a wry spin on generic Bad Company-style riff-rock, he admits that “I’ve never been happy quite this long, I’m either doing something very right or doing something very wrong.”

Where Is My Parade is a warped circus rock song that gets more over-the-top, and funnier, as it goes along – and the big brass band Fox-Rosen assembled for the track matches that surrealism. With Sisyphus, Fox-Rosen goes back to the classic radio rock for a spoof of optimistic “keep on keepin’ on” cliches. You Think That Was Something straddles the line between powerpop parody, a Spinal Tap-style narrative about an aging rocker mounting a dubious comeback, and a defiantly triumphant message that Fox-Rosen may be done with this project, but his best days are still to come. The album ends with Thank You, a generic blues ballad which on one level makes fun of musicians onstage pandering to an audience, but on the other puts both a scowl and a self-effacing shrug on the grim reality that most guys with guitars face. Fox-Rosen and band play a celebratory end-of-marathon show at Rock Shop in Gowanus at around 9 PM on Jan 9; explosive Balkan brass jamband Raya Brass Band, who put out one of the most phenomenal albums of 2013, open the festivities at 8.

Queens of the Stone Age at Joe’s Pub?!?

Queens of the Stone Age at Joe’s Pub: makes you smile, right? If you’re a New Yorker and you know that band, that’s worth at least half a laugh: QOTSA rocking the hell out of that sedate, shi-shi venue? That concert may not exactly be on the horizon, but you can see an entire set of QOTSA songs there when Nouvelle Vague mastermind Olivier Libaux brings his Uncovered QOTSA project there on Oct 15 at 10. And it’s a lot different than his regular band. Nouvelle Vague have a polarizing effect: some love them for their sarcastic loungey covers of 80s music, from punk to new wave; others dislike them because they lampoon iconic bands (Joy Division, for one), or because Libaux’ satire is so scattershot. In his world, everything from the best to the schlockiest is fair game for a spoof. Libaux has a whole album of QOTSA covers just out, and not only is it very funny, it’s also very revealing. Stripped to their core, these are really good songs, some of them maybe even better than the originals! Even if the sarcasm drips off them like fresh camembert.

There are a dozen songs on the album, delivered by a parade of female vocalists from genres across the spectrum, indie rock to jazz to straight-up goth music. Libaux’s M.O. here is to turn the tracks into goth-pop, which works as well as it does because QOTSA’s tunes draw a straight line back to Sabbath with their macabre chromatics. The opening track, River in the Road has Rosemary Standley’s nonchalantly warm vocals over a sway that hints at trip-hop – and it might be creepier than the QOTSA version. Katharine Whalen sings Medication as a catchy oldtime swing shuffle, as Jolie Holland might have arranged it. Clare Manchon (of Clare & the Reasons) does a deliciously blithe take of Burn the Witch, reinventing it as droll goth-pop that wouldn’t be out of place in an episode of Twilight.

Libaux’ Lynchian bossa arrangement of No One Knows, with Inara George on vocals, is the closest thing to Nouvelle Vague here. George also sings a lingering version of Hangin’ Tree. Susan Dillane’s faux-seductive goth delivery washes over carefree fingerpicked guitar and minor-key string synth on In My Head, while Skye sings 3/s and 7’s with hints of corporate “R&B” over funeral parlor organ and castanets: RZA might have done it this way.

Tangled Up in Plaid reaches for a Lynchian trip-hop swing with Gaby Moreno on the mic and, like a lot of the tracks here, manages to outdo the menace of the original despite itself. The comedic factor gets amped up when Ambrosia Parsley sings “I roll my bloodshot eyes,” on the devilishly droll cover of The Blood Is Love. Likewise, jazz chanteuse Youn Sun Nah’s deadpan “when I was a little boy” as Running Joke, done here as a mid-90s style Blonde Redhead-style waltz, gets underway. The Vegas-y space-pop version of Go with the Flow, with Emiliana Torrini on vocals, is as silly and over-the-top as Libaux gets here. The album winds up with Alela Diane singing a swaying, electric harpsichord-driven gothic cabaret take of I Never Came. Plenty of LOL moments here, especially if you know the source material (although some QOTSA fans might disagree vehemently). It’s also disquieting, something that Libaux seems to be going for, and if that’s the case he’s succeeded as mightily if a lot less loudly than the band that wrote these songs.

Mostly Other People Do the Killing Massacre Decades of Hot Jazz

Mostly Other People Do the Killing’s latest release on their Hot Cup label, Red Hot, is the great lost Spike Jones instrumental album. It’s the New York band’s most cartoonish, and also most accessible album: punk jazz doesn’t get any better, or more caustically funny than this. Bassist/bandleader Moppa Elliott insists that this is the best thing the group has ever done, and he’s right. Over the past few years, MOPDtK have parodied everything from post-Ornette sounds to 70s and 80s elevator jazz. But with 20s hot jazz trending hard with the one-percenters, it became obvious that the time was right for the Spinal Tap of jazz to give this genre a vigorous twist to put it out of its misery. This is one sick record. This time out, the core of the band, including Elliott, drummer Kevin Shea, saxophonist Jon Irabagon and trumpeter Peter Evans is bolstered by bass trombone legend David Taylor, pianist Ron Stabinsky and banjo shredder Brandon Seabrook.

Underneath the incessant jokes, there’s a method to the madness. They bedevil each other with the uneven meters common in hot jazz. Seabrook adds an ever-present mosquito buzz as he tremolo-picks his strings, ad nauseum: even if you love the banjo, you will get sick of hearing from him. That’s part of the plan. Taylor, the first and probably only bass trombonist to ever play a solo show at Carnegie Hall, is in his eighth decade and has never tired of taking on a challenge, and fits in perfectly: he’s one of the funniest members of the cast.

As usual, most of the song titles refer to Pennsylvania towns. The Shickshinny Shimmy works a vaudevillian swing with droll comedic japes from the banjo and bass trombone,  morphing into a vaguely latin vamp and then back; a simplistic three-chord cliche gets in the way. Zelionople opens with a ridiculously long drum solo and then shuffles along with repeated breaks for tomfoolery every time the bass and drums drop out, a trope that repeats throughout the album with surprisingly interesting results. Taylor’s silly downsliding hands off to Evans, who disappears with a clam in his throat, then reappears as Irabagon shadows him with his tongue stuck out.

The title track,  a tongue-in-cheek march, goes doublespeed a la Spike Jones, Irabagon having a field day, mealymouthed and psyched to halfheartedly spoof dixieland along with the rest of the band. King of Prussia has a priceless ADD piano intro and solo from Stabinsky, spitball-in-waiting suspense from Seabrook and dorky acents from Evans. Turkey Foot Corner has Elliott imitating a tabla and introducing a barnyard scenario, Taylor aptly quoting a familar Wizard of Oz lick, Evans’ not-quite-there solo over Seabrook’s omnipresent deadpan woodpecker banjo.

Seabrook, Power, Plant explores the Romany influence on hot jazz, working its way down to a Nino Rota-on-acid bolero. Orange Is the Name of the Town jams out a faux sentimental waltz with weepy muted trumpet accents and a long interlude that Stabinsky slowly and hilariously unravels, lefthand and righthand oblivious to each other.

There are two more tracks. Gum Stump makes fun of blues cliches, Shea’s refusal to stay on track one of the album’s best jokes, Seabrook and Taylor muttering their disapproval. The last track, a hi-de-ho Cab Calloway shuffle, is a mess by the time they hit the second turnaround, Irabagon mealymouthing his first solo and practically regurgitating his second one, going out on a deadpan serious note. Don’t count on that next time around. The album comes complete with liner notes by “Leonardo Featheweight,” this time taking the story of a smoldering Pennsylvania ghost town to its logical conclusion.

Mighty High’s New Album: Still Smoking

The follow-up to Brooklyn band Mighty High’s hilariously classic, satirical Mighty High in Drug City, from 2008, is hardly what you might expect. That one stumbled with a spot-on wooziness through a stoner universe populated by pilfered Ted Nugent riffs and every drug ever invented – as a Brooklyn counterpart to This Is Spinal Tap, it’s priceless. Mighty High’s latest album, Legalize Tre Bags – actually, let’s not stop at the little ones, let’s legalize ’em all! – is available on green vinyl (duh) from Ripple Music along with a download card for all the vinyl virgins. At heart, this is a punk rock record, beginning with I Don’t Wanna Listen to Yes, which from its cruel intro and the slurry Motorhead riffs the band leaps into afterward is sadly over in just a minute and sixteen seconds. Despite their metal cred, guitarists Chris “Woody” MacDermott and Kevin Overdose, bassist Matt “Labatts” Santoro and drummer Jesse D’Stills have a lot in common with the Dead Kennedys: they like short songs.

Mooche, a surprisingly straight-up punk tune, chronicles the ultimate freeloader weedhead who won’t get high on his own supply unless you’re paying for it – and if you’re going with all the way up to 241st St. in the Bronx to score with him, he wants an extra hit! The Ram, a riff-rocking tribute to “25 years of toking…I won’t quit til I take my last hit, kill off what’s left of my mind” has a twin guitar solo and then a Spinal Tap hammer-on attack. Speedcreep goes for a blend of hardcore and Motorhead, with an amusing halfspeed interlude; Tokin’ and Strokin’ has a cowbell intro and a musical joke that’s painfully obvious but still too funny to give away here. Cheap Beer, Dirt Weed shows you how much mileage you can get out of one chord and a couple of sticky riffs: “The perfect high is in my reach,” the poor guy stuck in the industrial wasteland of New Rochelle, New York insists. Likewise, Come On! I’m Holdin’, a tribute to the superior weed you find in Brooklyn, at least compared to “That weak shit in Washington Square, I had to live and learn!”

They go back to UK Subs-style punk for Drug War – “Your weed against mine!” – complete with sampled Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush “quotes” to underscore their point. Then the mockery kicks in, first with Loaded Loaded, a Molly Hatchet spoof, then the longest track here, Chemical Warpigs, an irresistible if completely over-the-top mashup of Slayer’s Chemical Warfare and Sabbath’s War Pigs. The album ends with High on the Cross, a twistedly spot-on contemplation of the ultimate drug – and the most lethal one – religion. If you like New York-centric weed jokes (“High Street/Brooklyn Bridge, Jay Street is next”), funny songs that make fun of heavy metal cliches, and purist guitar sonics – the production here is bubonically good – you’ll love this album. Can you listen to it without being high? Yes. Well, make that affirmative: as Mighty High wants you to know, Yes sucks!