Starring Baltimore's Pulaski as drunken super-villains.
01) Holding Out For Batgirl
02) One Drunk Guitarist
03) The Stain's Theme
06) Debassor's Theme
08) The Cruelest Lullaby
09) Fish Whistle
10) Dr. Obtuse's Theme
13) Reverbo's Theme
Fuck Godspeedyoublackemperor. Fuck sigor ros. Although I admire and enjoy these bands, they make me feel ugly. I could never be as transcendent or as beautiful as they are. On the other hand, seeing a local band defy the current climate of 'indie-chic' and 'New York cool' to declare 'I feel sticky, I feel icky, I AM THE STAIN,' makes me feel comfortable showing my face around town.
I've always enjoyed Pulaski's performances. I've admired their cover art. Then the other night at the Ottobar I got fucked up and bought their CD.
Pulaski is genius. I have bought CDs in the past from local bands because they were hyped to be some incredibly artsy, progressive force sure to put Baltimore on the map. Hell, I have purchased a disc or two from bands that were heralded as 'Baltimore's Best' because....hey....if it sucks, at the very least, I have a CD from one of 'Baltimore's Best.' But nothing I have heard locally has proved to be as daring, imaginative, or retarded as P.U.L.A.S.K.I.
And, not only did Pulaski release a CD, but, get this, a fucking accompanying comic book. Sound pretentious? Okay, let's run through the characters:
The Stain: Keeper of the radioactive underpants
Debassor: Possesses the ability to spawn debilitating sonic attacks from nearly every orifice by channeling ultra low frequency waves through the tuning fork on his head
Mr. Unmentionable: Master of extreme corporal shizodismemberment
Doctor Obtuse: Becomes exponentially stronger with each drop of booze
'Not Without My Sauce,' the comic book's 'story,' pits a group of intoxicated superheros known as P.U.L.A.S.K.I (Positively Unscrupulous Legion for the Advancement of Sinister Kind) against the evil Captain Sobriety and his campaign to reinstate prohibition in America. Good times...good times.
Judging by the ridiculous fun of the comic book, I wasn't expecting too much from the disc. But I was taken by surprise. Pulaski fucks around, but they fuck around very seriously. These aren't throwaway songs; they exhibit a complexity that eludes most pop music in their instrumentation, production, and arrangements. Genius and idiocy are interwoven in an aural tapestry to create a work few musicians have the balls to approach.
I guess what compels me the most is the conviction and honesty with which the band delivers some of their most bizarre and inane lyrics. 'Lullaby' is reminiscent of Weezer or Superdrag. Sung barely above a whisper and to a beautiful melody, the lyrics comfort a child before bedtime by promising 'I don't see any more monsters in your closet.' But that brief moment of calm and serenity is shattered as the song explodes into a critique of monsters and the psychological affects of eating before going to sleep. When the lead singer screams 'I'm not looking under your bed for the last time,' it is without a hint of humor, barked like a man who inherited the sins of his father and is disdainfully passing them to the next generation of fuck.
'Panties' is a bit lighter and tells the familiar story of 'girl leaves boy,' except in this song 'girl' leaves a cruel reminder of what 'boy' lost in the form of a pair of underpants on the bathroom floor. Not only does the garment trigger an emotional response....but also an olfactory one as he reveals that they smell like shit. Hell, yeah! In what appears to be their 'bait and switch' model, Pulaski's songs first lure you near with the familiar pop strains of your youth, only to yank you into their world of shit, alchohol and nothingness. All aboard!
'Fish Whistle' sounds like it could have been a track from a lost Flaming Lips album. The lead singer musters a vocal delivery wrought with pain and on the verge of falling apart as he spins the tale of an unproductive fishing trip. On the surface it sounds like he's telling the story of a dying friend. There isn't a trace of irony as the band plays as masterfully as if they were backing a plaintive Elliot Smith ballad.
However, listening closely to the lyrics reveals that absolutely nothing of any significance happens on this trip; it simply ends with the fisherman pulling down his pants while an angelic chorus of 3-part harmonies and cathedral bells blare on the horizon.
I listen to a lot of music but I've never before been inspired to write an album review.
What is it about this album that triggered such a reaction? I tried to explain to a co-worker the genius of a song about a character with radioactive underpants ('The Stain's Theme') and about how the songs embody the musical genius of ELO but with the lyrical content of a troubled 4th grader. He didn't seem impressed. Maybe it's something beyond this particular disc, and I am just starved for something authentic and unpretentious.
Maybe I am just tired of being promised the 'the next big thing' by bands that are 'light years ahead of their time' and 'outside the box.'
Maybe it's because my friends and I like to drink beer and fuck around, and aren't necessarily 'outside the box' or 'light years ahead of our time' ourselves. I think I am finally just glad to hear something from a band that sounds like they are from Baltimore. They are truly ear-delicious.