Maher Shalal Hash Baz L'Autre Cap

The infuriating thing about this album is that the band never let the songs happen. As soon as something interesting gets going (and there are, granted, plenty of interesting parts over the 27 songs) it almost immediately dissolves into a mushy jam session, and the whole thing ends up sounding like a bunch of psychedelic hobos jamming in an alleyway. I realise that this is a rather narrow-minded reading of the music; lots of folks prefer music that is loosely structured and lots of folks love Maher Shalal Hash Baz. The Japanese neo-psych band (though Tori Kudo is the only constant member) is over 20 years old and has a considerable cult following, although their history seems as nebulous as their music. So I will leave the following description as neutral as possible: the liner notes describe the music as "a kind of rock’n’roll, or boogie, that features bassoon in the place of bass.” I don’t quite hear the "boogie” but I certainly hear the bassoon. This is MSHB’s debut record on K, recorded by Old Time Relijun’s Arrington de Dionyso and it’s a good match to be sure. It sounds disoriented but friendly, atonal but relaxed, and there are plenty of nice melodies (almost always shadowed by clashing notes), and a few great moments when the songs really move forward. Tori Kudo’s intentionally amateurish vocals are sweet and pretty charming, although after 50 minutes they start to grate. Fans of faux naïve music and freeform neo-psych will love this, but they probably know that already. (K)