Before the world closed music fans in Ravenna, Italy were fortunate enough to catch a performance by Mondo Generator. The band has released a new album, Live At Bronson (Heavy Psych Sounds), performing the band’s hits, as well as songs by bassist Nick Oliveri’s Kyuss and Queens Of The Stone Age bands. What we get here by the desert rockers, rounded out by members Michael Amster and Mike Pygmie, are heady, driving tracks that know nothing else but hitting songs full-throttle. Heavy rhythms, chunky drum riffs, and guttural vocals are all worth their weight in gold individually, while all together leaves magic in the totality of the recording.
When a prolific group remains consistent in its musical delivery, gains notoriety year after year with quality music, what’s left to explore? Well, if you’re Robert Pollard and Guided By Voices, the world is your oyster. I never understood why people have used that metaphor time and time again but at the moment, it’s suiting.
There is no other band that rocks as hard as Guided By Voices or is consistently as good, blending catchy melodies within its prog-rock compositions and at this point, we’re all aware of Pollard’s ability to churn out hundreds of songs a year. Sure I’ve heard bands say they can write the same amount but the difference there is, the songs will never, have never sounded as good. But that’s a story for another time. What does any of this have to do with the music at hand? Well, Cub Scout Bowling Pins is GBV, a wolf in sheep’s clothing so to speak. Another variation of music, eschewing the prog-rock for something much more happily endearing on the debut full-length, Clang Clang Ho (Rockathon Records)
First thing’s first, and before questions are asked, yes, there are a lot of songs here. 20 tracks to be exact and it’s a grandiose affair at times. The band kicks things off with “Magic Taxi” leading the way as acoustic guitars ring out alongside hidden strings as Pollard drives through the song in his yellow mobile, traveling across rainbow-colored roads. He’s that cabbie that’s sharing his story through urban streets as his Cub Scout theme song plays on. It’s a cleverly winding track that leaves much to the imagination. There are hints of alternate time period hopping here, sometimes even meshing in more than one at a time. “Flip Flop World” though is reminiscent of 50s-grounded Happy Days pop although I’m not sure Pollard’s vocal delivery would be welcomed through the one-and-a-half-minute pull of the song. The music isn’t solely driven by guitars, embellishing tracks like “Schoolmaster Bones” with hefty Wings of piano and a song construction that could land it right smack in the middle of 70s rock era and no one would blink twice. There’s a sweetness that’s undeniable which indirectly lands in “Eggs, Mother?” as guitars maneuver around the bounce of peppy drums.
Just when you believe these Cub Scouts are lighting fires and camping out in one spot, they move in deeper into the forest. In less than a minute, “Everybody Loves A Baboon” is ingeniously wondrous and haunting. The atmospheric track builds around guitars and a background instrumental harmony that’s difficult to let go of. Repeating it is the only option, over and over again. But it’s the band’s single “© 1-2-3” that’s one of the most infectious songs ever written. The melody embeds itself as guitar notes float all around as the stereo effect of vocals drift in and out, backed by those luscious harmonies. Yet the band makes another swift 90-degree turn on heavy-hitting “Sister Slam Dance” as loud guitar notes echo through speakers, shaking walls, shattering windows. Hell yes!
Honestly, there’s so much to discover throughout the album; from the stylish “Space Invader” to the frenzied “Competitor,” it’s a fantastic hodgepodge of a journey through music. Clang Clang Ho holds an abundance of style and skill for the discerning listener. I myself, well, I’m all in.