New Music: Friday Roll Out! With Capital Punishment, Future Generations, Guerilla Toss, Fred Thomas

Fun Fact: Someone once paid $10K on a non-visible sculpture he or she couldn’t see. Yeah, I couldn’t believe it when I heard that. It’s a good amount of change for something that doesn’t’ exist. Or did it? Maybe it was real and covered so as no one would be able to view its structure? I’m not sure why anyone would pay that much for something they couldn’t see but then again, someone just reminded me about the Emperor’s New Clothes. Life imitating art? Quite possibly.
I think at some point there will be a reckoning, and that moment is now. I sometimes don’t know how to feel about certain things, and while Capital Punishment comes as a surprise to most, I’m pretty sure the reaction many will have is the complete opposite of my own. The band features the renowned comedian/actor Ben Stiller, along with some friends from his high school days. Roadkill (Captured Tracks) is the band’s reissue and well, I have to question why anyone would want to subject themselves to a recording of bizarreness for the sake of being outlandishly peculiar. The band never stays static in one position, opting to move from one place to the other. Constantly. They move from splotchy cut-and-paste sample culture (“Necronomicon”) to experimentally challenged (title track) confused hypersensitivity loaded with an abrasive static undercurrent running through it (“Confusion”) just within three tracks alone. It’s also a slow meandering burn on the funky driven numbers (“Muzak Anonymous”) which may show a Les Claypool weirdness (Yes, I know this is pre-Primus) but you’re just left scratching your head. It’s just a strange turn of events, especially when images of Pere Ubu’s David Thomas walk tip-toeing in my mind (“Delta Time”) but is again, sloppily meandering through its instruments. There’s a lot going on throughout Roadkill to try to make sense of it, sometimes coming across like an art project for a doctoral dissertation (“Creatures Of The Dark Night”) or piecing together found sounds and putting them to tape just to see what the final result may be (“John’s Forgotten Land”). I think there’s a reason this was entitled as Roadkill, it’s self-explanatory.

Sometimes you’re left with more questions than answers, but you must decipher the riddle before you’re able to move in any direction. But then again, is there a riddle? I’m trying to figure out where to classify Guerilla Toss, which is easier said than done. The band made up of a quintet of musicians that bring something unique to the Guerilla Toss obviously blend in their identities for something refreshing. This isn’t the band’s first go around either, as they’ve compiled a healthy catalogue of music and remixes. Given, the group has gone through a number of member shifts since forming back in 2010, which is probably why Guerilla Toss has remained tried and true and consistently creative, but with Twisted Crystal (DFA Records), there are so many things that confuses as much as it does hypnotize. The band compresses a hodgepodge of elements of new wave, no wave, 80’s pop, 90’s punk, and modern-day oddness. The sound they create sounds retroactive but completely contemporary. The opening “Magic Is Easy” remarkably includes fluid watery vibes, utilizing their instruments effectively and when singer Kassie Carlson gives the imagery being at “the edge of the ice cube” and “the tip of the iceberg,” and musically it makes sense. The song alone intrigues with what’s to come. The band doesn’t follow a normal path and seems to prefer dirt roads, trying things that are new or hardly utilized. The bizarre chatter of “Jesus Rabbit” matches the voices in my own head but here they band utilizes guitars like dissonant kazoos, or are they actual kazoos? If you’ve ever had a swim in Truman’s Water you’d understand but the band will turn on a dime with its hypnotic dance grooves like on “Meteorological,” which fits in perfectly into the band’s aesthetic. The band has a key sense of pop sensibility which is fitted well into every song, from the darkly hued “Retreat” to bounce of “Come Up With Me” to the dreamy “Walls Of The Universe.” From beginning to end, there’s no way to even show a modicum of hate for Guerilla Toss and Twisted Crystal. The band’s energy alone with have you smiling.

It’s the return of Fred Thomas. While his last offering Changer was a good record, it wasn’t mind-blowing. Don’t get me wrong here, I like Fred Thomas and the aesthetic he brought with it. What a difference a year makes, as he returns with Aftering (Polyvinyl), his new album today where he seems to take more chances with song structure, ethereal compositions and plays with melody and harmony. He starts things off with “Ridiculous Landscapes (featuring Common Holly and Dominic Coppola)” which encompasses all of those elements in one song. The song drifts beautifully throughout 4 minutes and you won’t want it to move any other way. It’s just… perfect. And then comes the feedback! “Alcohol Poisoning” sounds like it’s taking a Dinosaur Jr. sans the laconic delivery, and it works. What seems to differ this time around from his last offering is how much looser things have gotten from one album to the other. This time around, Fred lets things go! “Hopeless Ocean Drinker” jams out while “Good Times Are Gone Again” finds him a bit more pensive, reminiscent of Tom Petty, only drenched in feedback. It’s a song for the ages and one I’m enamored with. Aftering is a surprise, track after track and having Anna Burch providing backing vocals on “Altar” was a welcomed one. The track bounces happily from beginning to end, pushed along by his guitar, spinning circles around a catchy melody. It doesn’t get better than this. Or so you’d think until you hear “Mother Daughter Pharmaprix,” which is beautifully haunting and melancholy.  Fred Thomas is moving in a different direction here, composing lengthy numbers, experimenting with sounds like on “House Show Late December,” eerie imagery on “Slow Waves (featuring Ashley Hennen,”  and playing with expanse on “What The Sermon Said (featuring Elliot Bergman).” There’s just so much to take in within the confines of just the 9 tracks on Aftering which will lead everyone to find more within the tracks after repeated listen. That’s what I’m doing.

From the moment that digital needle hits the first track of Landscape (Frenchkiss Records), you know what you’re in for with Future Generations’ latest offering. There isn’t anything that may remarkably stand out but you’re in for a good time! I think that just might be the point here with the band’s sophomore release. Although towards the end of “Stranger” their catchy riffs succumb to some short-lived experimentation, it’s back to business as usual. The keyboard-driven songs like the title track are just catchy AF! The song is accented by melodic guitar lines that’ll make you dance with singer Eddie Gore just keeping you from standing still. This seems to be the band’s modus operandi regardless of what speed the group is moving in. The mid-tempo of “Caught Me By Surprise” easily have you swaying while “All The Same” brings you back to binge on the band’s standard movements. You have to call out Future Generations for what they are, and that’s your modern-day pop band. While music elitists will scoff at Future Generations’ sound, the band shouldn’t be dismissed. With Landscape, they’re keeping true to who they are and the music they write, and that’s the only thing that’s important.