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.


Anonymous said...

I have one of their CDs but I didn't really get into it. I will have to give it another listen

Drew said...

SGM is one of the most incredible groups I've ever encountered. They're also one of the most difficult. That being said, In Glorious Times I think is the most...accessible? I can't believe I just used that word to describe them...of their three albums. Definitely the most focused and cohesive. I don't think I really appreciated them fully until I saw them live a couple times. There you can appreciate their performance art/theatre element, and the social connotations of what they're trying to say.
Their is no way to get bored with this band. You have to give them that, at the very least!

TristansArtFart said...

I discovered STGM earlier this year, when I picked up their record 'Grand Opening And Closing' because it had a cool-looking cover. I listened to it, and after several minutes of uttering
small yelps of pleasure and yelling "What The Hell??", I turned to my friend and said: "Aaaghaabwuuuuzzzmuk," a noise that I tend to make when deeply, deeply enjoying myself. I bougth the album, of course.
This new album did not dissapoint me in any way. Sleepytime have evolved beautifully in the last years, especially considering the seemingly shaking happenings that appear to occur in the Frykdahl family. These are some of the greatest musicians on the planet, and the best live show I have ever seen!

Anonymous said...

That was a great review!

bknakker said...

Nice post, you managed to write some thoughts I couldn't formulate to words :-) One little error: the title of the second track is "Helpless Corpses Enactment", not "Headles Corpses Reenactment".