Idiot Flesh – Tales of Instant Knowledge and Sure Death (2/07/2011)

Eerily catchy, surprisingly funky with a strong right hook waiting for the Artsier side of rock.

Anyone who knows me (or, more specifically, people who know what music I enjoy, since I enjoy having normal conversations sometimes) knows that I have Nils Frykdahl fetish, and this is certainly no exception.   However, what we have here is Nils in more of a collective element, since the band has 6 core members with a handful of instruments (both traditional and homemade), as well as dozens of guest and secondary musicians.  Musically speaking, the album is a veritable collage of hodgepodge sounds and unusual musical twists and turns, with a healthy dose of humor.   Fucking weird humor.

Sounds like if Mr. Bungle’s crew grew up listening to Henry Cow, the Residents and Jethro Tull instead of metal.

Unlike the two proceeding albums,  Tales of… (not gonna type it out, fuck) has a surprising focus on being infectiously catchy, at least in their bizarre and otherworldly way.   And, that funk. Some of the tracks throw some oddball influences in your face:  Thinking of a Number Above 17 seems like either a tribute to or a shot in the ribs to Primus, or probably more than likely to Les himself (probably both), with a very similar vocal delivery to our good Funk-Rocker and some slap bass flopping all over the track.  The hilariously pornographic track Housewife (lyrically dealing with exactly what you’re thinking)  is one of the highlights of the album, a bizarre hybrid of obtuse avant-rock and fresh-as-fuck bass lines and funk themes.

Idiot Flesh also loves to take some rib shots at Progressive Rock, Avant Rock and all the music between; tracks like Artstroking and Meditation have some very obvious jabs at 70s Prog and Pop-Rock.   A lot of the jokes themselves seem to aimed at an ‘in’ crowd of listeners, seeming as how anything being parodied or mocked, however openly, is never literally discussed–Artstoking has grossly over-exaggerated Ian Anderson crooning into your ear while flutes and acoustic guitars glitter around the music, as well as the Tale having a strange (goofy) similarity to the opening  of A Passion Play. The whole album is a pretty stark reminder of their influences, even if most of them seem to overplayed in jest, forming a sort of musical roast that might be lost on those unfamiliar with the bands or the general pomp around them.

Lyrically…. I honestly don’t know.  A lot of tracks have obviously humorous quips at anything that happens to grab their interest, though there are some unusual statements made in some–the best part is finding where.  Songs like Heavy Metal Beer just use voice samples from anti-teenage drinking movies to make a surprisingly funny song that really has more to do with Noise-Rock than thrash metal, ending up sounding like a low-brow version of supposed high brow art rock.  Works a lot better than you’d think.  The lyrics match the music, mainly in that they don’t really have a lot of grounding in familiarity or reality for that matter.

Despite the surprising variety of styles and instruments used, there is still a strong core of music that largely stays within itself, never delving into anything would be too obtuse for less adventurous listeners.  Some of the music draws heavily from 70s indulgence and lushness, others from dirty, thudding bass of funk-rock.  There are some unusual, angular melodies darting around bass heavy rock tracks, and there are surprisingly delicate sounding, softer melodies.  Amidst the chaos, instruments like cellos,violins, flutes, trumpets, pianos, keyboards and homemade instruments find their way into the sound, still not overbearing the sound in favor of making it more inaccessible for its own sake.  It’s unusual, chaotic but with a brow raising level of precision.

The reason I’m reviewing Tales of… as opposed to the much more popular sequels, especially Fancy which happens to find its way onto a lot of my favorite albums lists, is because Idiot Flesh was an ever evolving foundation of musicians, and the songs on each album are all incredibly diverse, and hints of things showing up in Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, nearly 10 years after this album, worked their way from here to there.  It’s an interesting history of sound and musical ideology, so if there is any reason to start here, it’s this:

Musical evolution at its finest.

Of course I hope you find your way to the other two Idiot Flesh albums, The Nothing Show and Fancy, as well as all of the Sleepytime Gorilla Museum albums, but start here, if you plan to do so.  Bizarre or not, there is an obvious passion for their craft on display here.

A truly underrated band that pushed boundaries and styles long before most thought of doing it.  Talent, creativity and a welcome dash of reality and humor that is largely absent from modern music in general, and especially “Art” rock and its ilk.  With fellow people like Frank Zappa and Mike Patton, Idiot Flesh would fit perfectly amongst music that isn’t afraid to try new things, and make fun of itself in the process.

Not a easy-listening experience, but worth it alone for the experience itself.  Unusual, funky and funny, it should be  listened to at least once; it also is recommended to just about anyone who has a fascination with bizarre musicians like Frank Zappa, John Zorn, Mike Patton and so forth.

Well stomp your hands,
clap your feet
Boys shake your feet
and girls watch your seat.

Let’s boogie.

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