Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Sleepytime Gorilla Museum—In Glorious Times (The End)
Sleepytime Gorilla Museum’s music is dense, tricky and ultimately rewarding once you get past its initial “what the hell?” factor. You plug this CD into iTunes and it comes up under the genre “Rock,” which is a woefully inadequate description of the tangle that tumbles out after pressing “play.” They claim to pursue something called “rock against rock,” a contradictory, negating slogan that actually suits their music better. They generate enough bombast and chaos to rival any metal band, but they manage to do it without the conventional metal weaponry—no power chords, no cod-classical/medieval melody lines, no climactic guitar solos. Instead they create an onslaught comprising odd homemade instruments, slashing dissonant guitars, percussion that skitters around every obvious possible beat, and vocals that range from Nils Frykdahl’s slavering rapid-fire rantings to Carla Kihlstedt’s beautifully plaintive singing. No matter how much the quintet piles on—and the songwriting does take an all-hands-on-deck approach—just when the clutter and counterpoint become too much to absorb, branches of musical accessibility eventually emerge as little handholds to which to cling. The folk/hymn opening of “The Companions,” for example, has a great deal of appeal, with Frykdahl singing beautifully and dramatically against a tinkling backdrop. But SGM can’t help themselves, they build and build upon that opening theme before finally exploding into the inevitable cacophony in the final three minutes. The next song, “Headless Corpses Reenactment,” is a more concentrated burst of dramatic ferocity, kind of like Univers Zero interpreting Suffocation. This, of course, is the song they blew their wad on a splendid video for. I would have thought they’d pick the user-friendlier Kihlstedt-voiced “Formicary,” a perfectly pleasant number that veers into King Crimsonville only at the end. As if the music wasn’t challenging enough, cryptic phone messages are interspersed between several tracks, inviting you to imagine and construct a storyline for the album. Who are these people and why are they saying these things? So many questions…some of which Frykdahl answered when I interviewed him last week. I won’t say anything more here. You should give this album some time, wait for the questions to come, and start chipping away at your own conclusions. The most important conclusion I’ve drawn is that this is one of the year’s best albums.