Music Reviews

Artist: Guide to Bizarre Behavior (@)
Title: Guide to Bizarre Behavior Voi. 2
Format: Tape
Label: ShanGORIL La Records (@)
Rated: *****
I'm not exactly sure if this project's name is Guide to Bizarre Behavior or if it's just the title of the work, or if it's a collective under the ShanGORIL La Records banner, but anywho, it consists of Brian Bromberg, Ray Bong and Suzy Creamcheeze. (I don't think that's Zappa's Suzy Creamcheese, but likely where the name came from.) These folks have a number of releases also under the names of The Bongoloids and Earl Long (named for the 45th Governor of Louisiana, not some solo artist named Earl Long) so we'll assume ShanGORIL La Records is only the label name. The music here on 'Guide to Bizarre Behavior Voi. 2' (and yes, there was a Vol. 1) was recorded in the desert of Yucca Valley, California and the swamp of New Orleans, Louisiana. Hold on to your hats boys and girls, because we're about to take a bumpy ride into some very strange territory.

Beginning with "Planner Jammer", a slightly out of tune piano plays a repetitive riff backed by a somewhat stilted drum kit and other percussion, interspersed with whistling electronic noodling. It's kind of jammy but strictly basement stuff. Oh my! "Whisper Blizzard" begins with a brief recitation by a woman (Suzy Creamcheeze, I presume) echoing off with a barking dog in the background, then a song begins with guitar and bass. Melodic soft male vocals in a kind of stream of consciousness psychedelic vein, and a few other stray elements, the female voice returns with a word here or there as it meanders, then out. "Rabbit Ear Sketch" has some interesting percussion, vocals over bass guitar chords, electronic bird whistling, and the lyrics are...definitely bizarre - "Mr. Tokyo, Mr. Squirrel, I know you'd like to play with the rabbit..." and might be the most normal of them in this tune. "Gasping For Air" is an abstract bit of acoustic-electronica that would leave the Residents scratching their heads in puzzlement, but surely the fish would get it. "Justin Timberlak" is even a stranger concoction of sounds, vocals, and lyrics loosely woven together into a song that walks that thin line between insanity and genius. In the beginning of "Kashmir Buttercup" there is a low, muffled industrial thrumming before the slurry, drunken chorus of vocals come in. Brief and woozy. "Brian Gumble" takes pop culture and consumerism, social media and the American dream and mixes it in a Daevid Allen-ish psychedelic stew. "Aura of Diamonds" is done up like an old-timey vaudeville number, but with a smattering of electro-acoustic abstractions. "Do your paintings twinkle like Thomas Kinkade's? Farewell Globe readers, we aren't your friends sittin' by the fake fire heater. I subscribe to the trend. Outrageous claims by certified doctors, calculated deals worth millions of dollars..." and on it goes. Not your average old-timey song by a longshot. Finally, we end this brief tour-de-farce with "Itchy Perky Pinkerton," a track with sequenced, echoed staccato plinky melodic percussion with some little reverse attack notes interspersed just for good measure. Hmmm...that was the most "normal' thing on this work, depending on your idea of normal.

Which leads me to the question, what is normal anyway? In music, is it adhering to prescribed conventions of genre? Expecting the familiar? Rejecting the aberrant? In that case, there is nothing normal about 'Guide to Bizarre Behavior Voi. 2', but why should there be? It would be very easy to schluff this off as amateurish avant-garde, the by-product of too many drugs and not enough practice, or a twisted psyche in need of professional help. But I'm not going to do that. This stuff is sui generis, and although influences abound, you'd be hard pressed to pin these folks down. I'm not saying that it's all brilliant. At times I found it a bit too twee, and in places, sloppy, but even that has a certain charm. Art ain't always pretty, and sometimes it can get pretty messy too. And in that respect, these folks excel at that, whether you like it or not. Available in cassette or digital download from the ShanGORIL La Records website.

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