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Perhaps Contraption- Sludge & Tripe LP Review (7.9/10),
This review is from: Sludge & Tripe (MP3 Download)
Every once in a while I like to make an effort to treat my friends and family to samples of my favourite music. I don't know why, since it never makes me look like the culturally enlightened person I egotistically believe myself to be, but nonetheless I go ahead and play them some choice records, and it's usually the case that amongst these records they will hear something by at least one band known for wantonly mixing genres like there's no tomorrow - I'm talking about bands like Mr. Bungle and Naked City, `multi-genre' bands my friends and family seem to possess a matchless genius for absolutely hating. As much as I've tried I have never managed to convert a single person to these bands, but now, with the thanks of London outfit Perhaps Contraption and their debut album `Sludge & Tripe,' I may have found a way of getting my foot in the proverbial door.
That's because, while groups like Naked City and Mr. Bungle (for their last two albums at least) were well and truly avant-garde, Perhaps Contraption are first and foremost a rock band, whose music, for all its stylistic twists and turns, is almost entirely guitar-driven, and as such they represent a stepping stone between the different ends of the accessibility spectrum. Their modus operandi for the majority of `Sludge & Tripe' is to take an energetic rock template and genetically alter it in various colourful and resonant ways without disrupting its overall flow and feel. So on opener `The Old Dispensary' we have a brooding, stalking verse that recurrently takes about turns into a dance of breezy flutes and then delicate acoustic pluckings before leading into a crescendo featuring well-controlled, sliding noise guitar and a tricky odd-time signature. From the beginning vocalist Squire Squier asserts himself as someone with a knack for a catchy - and surreal - lyric, gifting us with the pearl of wisdom, "The chickens are all on chemicals/The public are all on chickens/The future's on the public/It's a chemical chicken public future that I've been dreaming of," which despite it's initially quirky appearance and delivery may very well be a perfectly legitimate indictment of agribusiness and what's it produce might do to the constitution of future generations.
The absurd lyrical content is a thread running through the entire album, reaching its apex on `Mumma's Shoes,' a jaunty country-tinged barnstormer (with a stately post-rock soundscape thrown in as an extended bridge for good measure) about a woman who loses her shoes one day while using them to fish for crabs, but after diving underwater to retrieve them finds an even better pair of boots amongst the seaweed (no, I'm not making this up). While this humour undoubtedly prevents the album from having any significant emotional weight, the sense of frivolity is more than strengthened by the band's often formidable chops. `Coffee, Tea?' features a ferocious riff that, with a shifting meter, would quite easily fit on any mathcore album we've ever heard, and juxtaposed with the lounge-y verse (replete with the histrionically sung lyric, "Tea makes you pee") it sounds all the more decapitating. And `Tetrahedron' - the most out-and-out rocker on the LP, with only a few solitary, bar-long non-sequiturs - is an exhaustingly fast-moving number with a scale-ascending-descending bass line and the kind of lead a guitarist in a waltz band might play if he were supremely pissed off.
The same impressive musicality is found in the off-kilter funk-metal of `Bluebells' and the tight pastoral jazz of `Swan's Regal Birdbath', and it's this musical ability that enables Perhaps Contraption to bring the often disparate and divergent elements of their songs into cohesive and progressive wholes where some other recent multi-genre bands have allowed themselves to simply pile segments on top of each other and hope for the best. Their methodical approach is to be applauded, and that they often marry these wholes to infectious choruses is a minor miracle. Admittedly some of the more inveterate avant-gardists may deem `Sludge & Tripe' a little too rock-centred in its attack, but everyone else may very well find an album that goes a long way towards keeping loud guitar music fresh and exciting. (Simon Chandler)
For fans of: Frank Zappa, Dog Fashion Disco, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, Mr. Bungle, Stump, Henry Cow, early Incubus.