“Zappa party tunes” was how a toiler at San Francisco’s world-famous Amoeba Music pitched to me the sextet known as Battlehooch. Originally from Santa Cruz and now Fogtown locals, the band’s art-damaged sonic strategies, mismatched thrift store getups and occasional subway guerrilla gigs have stirred up quite the commotion around the Bay Area. On this full-length, self-titled debut, Battlehooch handily snaps up the baton of abstract musical adventure from forebears like the aforementioned Frank Zappa.
Yes, it’s Prog-Rock by any other epithet, but it’s imbued with an appetite for raunch and discord that adds a sheen of sinewy surprise to the music’s more formalist aspects. Nifty interplay between saxophone and guitar on “Ringtone” is one highlight; the dour, Bley/Rota-like melody and vocal chorale of ‘Red Tide’ another. This eight-song aural kaleidoscope, Battlehooch, signs off deftly with ‘Honest’, juxtaposing sweet back-porch banjo and vocal harmonies with a guitar solo as sinuous as a David Gilmour-bred reptile.
// Notes from the Road
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