In a recent interview with the Montreal Hour, Enon bassist Matt Schultz expressed his displeasure at some people’s reaction at Enon’s diverse array of sounds: “People have been saying how from track to track we sound like a different band. We want people to realize that we can have a cohesive sound of we try—that it exists. Through it all, it’s all Enon. No matter if it’s electronic or pop, there’s a line to be drawn between all the music”. Listening to Need New Body’s third album Where’s Black Ben?, I wondered if the same issue bothered them. Since their inception in 1996, Need New Body’s everything-and-the-kitchen-sink mix of electronics, punk, rock ‘n’ roll, folk, video game music, street beats, and lo-fi aesthetic has made them cult heroes while leaving a few scratching their heads. It would be difficult for any listener to adequately summarize Need New Body’s sound in a just a few words. Stylistically, they shame Enon in jumping from style and style, sometimes within the same tune, and rarely do they leave an idea unturned Their latest effort picks up where their last effort, U.F.O., left off and continues the group’s deliberately scatterbrained ramblings.
The disc’s 16 tracks span a quick 40 minutes, filling every nook and cranny possible with sound. The album starts with the faux-‘80s rap ditty “Brite Tha’ Day”. With a pumping synth beat that recalls Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust”, an unknown Need New Body member (their psychedelic collage artwork, coupled with hard to read credits, make deciphering information a nightmare) spits some thoroughly forgettable lyrics. It’s an odd and strangely boring (for them) opening to the disc. The album’s third track shifts gears entirely. “Totally Pos Paas” is a straight-up garage punk song, featuring some astonishing drumming and a memorable melody. Of course, the band switches it up again with the country pop tune “Poppa B”. In case it’s becoming painfully apparent, Need New Body play every style in their own unique and offhanded way.
Where’s Black Ben? moves through a dizzying array of styles. If you want some half-destroyed electronic house, check out “Who’s This Dude?/Tec No Eyes/Do U Want 2 Party w/Me?”. If ragtime piano is your game, skip ahead to “Tuthmosis”. How about some tribal Sonic Youth-styled noise? Check out “Badoosh + Seagull War = Die”. Somehow they even manage to corral Sun Ra Arkestra members Marshall Allen and Tyrone Hill into the studio for the group’s tribute to Sun Ra, “Outer Space”.
In an episode of the now-defunct cartoon series Home Movies, the grade-school lead character forms a band with two of his best friends. They rent a guitar, a bass and drum set, and though not knowing how to play their instruments, write a one-and-a-half-hour song called “Freakie Outtie”. The song as such is two “chords” thrashed wildly, coupled with the members screaming the name of the song at the top of their lungs. They, of course, love the song, but their parents and teachers just don’t get it. Where’s Black Ben? left me with a similar feeling. I’m not quite sure what Need New Body are trying to accomplish, or even if I’m supposed to know. From the odd song titles, to the insignificant lyrics and mashed up amalgam of styles played half-assedly, Need New Body seem to performing only for themselves. Nothing on the album works together, and the band’s failure to develop any of their ideas further than the moment they seem to get, results in a disc that feels tossed off and half-finished. I’m not sure who Black Ben is, and by the end of the disc, I didn’t know where he was either, but if Need New Body’s goal was keep that away from the listener, they succeeded completely.