“Soft, lilting melodies of delicate gossamer loveliness blow through the spring flowers, like a breath of sunshine, giving a relaxing air of calmness…”
…is not something that you would hear said about any release from The Bob Lazar Story. This is a good thing.
The first full album since 2012 is finally among us, courtesy of the good folk at Bad Elephant Music who continue to release interesting and varied stuff at a prolific rate. Baritonia is to be released on 14th April, a day that, perhaps fittingly, marks the 1,051st anniversary of Mieszko I, pagan ruler of the Polans, converting to Christianity after his marriage to Dobrawa of Bohemia, an event considered to be the founding of the Polish state.
This is a more than worthy way to celebrate. No po-faced noodling here, it comes atcha like an unruly clown riding a goat through the lingerie section at M&S.
That clown is New Zilland based ex-pat Scouser Matt Deacon, for whom The Bob Lazar Story is the vehicle of choice. Matt continues to go from strength to strength through the now six releases to date, the band these days being a solid two-man outfit with drummer Chris Jago who became involved a few years ago, the intrepid duo sneering at the fact that they are separated by the bleedin’ Pacific Ocean, Chris thoughtlessly deciding to reside in Los Angeles. Together they form a feisty paring and the commitment to what they are producing here is clear, a proper duo working together – as if sharing the same planetary hemisphere – with Chris co-writing several of the tracks.
Self-produced, the result is crystal clear as guitars launch slabs of sound or pick out dexterous riffs. The drums are superb throughout, crisply doing just what is necessary to enhance and underpin the pieces, which are generally keyboard heavy with a pleasingly unorthodox approach, the lines having a self-propelled wilfulness about them that almost defy composition, organically growing in unexpected directions with the results often being at odds with the rest of the music. But it all fits and it all works, fiendishly clever stuff that grows in stature the more you hear it.
As any purveyor of “tritonal wankery” worth his salt should know, you need to keep it interesting, and as such a person of over 10 years’ standing Matt is well aware of the requirement, his put-down description of the project at the time of the Self-Loathing Joe EP as “two small bands having a fight on some stairs” still holding true whilst at the same time being wildly misleading. Instrumental music can be a knotty thing to engage with, but the titles here help as they open small windows into Matt and Chris’ fiendish world.
I’m drawn to thinking that Baritonia should be the home planet of Zappa’s Baritone Women, it probably isn’t but if it were the title track suggests it to be a sinister place of foreboding, magnificent buildings of granite towering above, but with nice curtains at jaunty angles suggesting that hilarity might occasionally ensue within, the satisfying ‘Boing!’ at the end confirming this. Sheet-metal chords underpin LOL, Defiantly, which quite rightly laughs in the face of the danger and the overwhelming odds suggested by the previous track. Matt still only has the reassuringly cheap keyboard set up but he scurries around it like a hungry mouse at an Edam convention, both of these tracks including brief Mellotron sections which work a treat.
The fragmentary Eastern Rising is all keys, acoustic guitars and seagulls, like a salty velvet splinter, while the forthright Make It Like It Used To Be is as woozy and stuttering as a forgetful drunk. Fast and furious with keyboard lines all over the show, solid drums and exquisite guitar, there’s shades of Cardiacs within Top Top Switcherooney, Elbow Patch Man, a title that only a mother could love but which probably means something devilish to Mr Deacon.
Based on a true story*, In The Woods With Tony Iommi is a Baritonia centrepieces. Matt and Tony are in the woods… and Tony is grumpy, at least at first, before becoming quite jovial, probably after the tent has been put up and firewood collected. But he continues to scowl intermittently until the marshmallows are toasting, peeling off some mighty riffs in the process. Tony relaxes at last, enjoying the woodland vista, the cool evening breeze and the sounds of nearby raccoons. And then it rains, his ‘mallows are soggy and the fire goes. He kicks over the tent and goes home.
After all that aggression, Relax For A Min, Yeah? is quite relaxing and lasts for almost a minute, so we’ll give them that; minimalist therapy for undiagnosed lunatics. Having taken a minute to get over Tony’s tantrum, the inscrutable YNWALR returns us to the edge. Whatever it means, the beat is strident while keys bounce around quite splendiferously. Fiddly, funky and fun with the spectre of King Crimson hoving into view.
It wouldn’t be a Bob Lazar album without another instalment of the epic Foodstool chronicles, this time in bluesy pickin’ geetar mode, and it is good. Finally, Escape Tits – they’re at the milk again!
It is music like this that makes me want to keep on hearing new stuff, music inspired by a wide range of influences and processed through wilfully obtuse minds to produce satisfyingly unexpected results. It gets better with each play, a cohesive salvo of accessible (but not TOO accessible!) weirdness that should be available on the NHS, such are its healing properties**.
I just love the beautiful craziness of it all. It’s uplifting and inspiring, and in a world of lies, deception and clusterfuckery on the grandest scale ever, we need this more than ever.
Matt & Chris – Please keep doing what you do!
Everyone Else – Just buy this so that they can!
01. Baritonia (6:26)
02. LOL, Defiantly (3:51)
03. Eastern Rising (0:17)
04. Make It Like It Used To Be (2:19)
05. Top Top Switcherooney, Elbow Patch Man (3:33)
06. In The Woods With Tony Iommi (6:26)
07. Relax For A Min, Yeah? (0:56)
08. YNWALR (6:41)
09. Blues For Foodstool (1:57)
10. Escape Tits [bonus track] (2:45)
Total time – 35:11
Matt Deacon – Guitars, Keyboards, Programming
Chris Jago – Drums
Record Label: Bad Elephant Music
Year Of Release: 14th April 2017