The Apes: Fugue in the Fog

[10 September 2001]

By Jason Thompson

Pulp Music

You can see ‘em creepin’ out of the swamp. Dragging their wet, murky feet through the mud and onto the abandoned dirt road just on the outskirts of the county. They creep through the moonlight and hulk around wantonly. They bring their sounds. Big amps swelling with their overloaded rock fury. They are The Apes. This is their album.

Beautiful. I wanna be a press kit writer. For the time being, I am having to suffice with reviewing Fugue in the Fog. Not since Billy Joel’s classic two-man group Atilla in the late ‘60s have I heard such strange rock as this. There is no lead guitar. In its place is a heavy organ that pumps out the riffs. This Laytonsville, Maryland band has a sound all their own. They even dig dressing up in fatigues for their live shows, much like Todd Rundgren’s Utopia used to do in the early ‘80s. Rock and roll soldiers at odds with a world that is currently popping teenage-like for the most part.

But The Apes are most definitely here to rock you, and rock you hard. Erick Jackson handles bass and Moog duties, Amanda Kleinman works over the organ, Jeff Schmid pounds the skins, and Paul Weil howls from beyond. This may not be evident on the first track, “Intro”, in which a sped up voice simply intones “The-Apes”, but the picture becomes very clear on “Black Tears”. “Give us what’cha got tonight!” demands Weil, as he interjects a few whoops and grunts in the lyrics, letting you know that he means business and is really getting into the rock.

What you essentially have here is a hybrid of heavy metal minus the guitars. Kleinman’s organ destroys everything in its path, and Weil enjoys singing through a distorted mic, but the missing guitar tends to limit The Apes’ mission. Sure, using a loud old organ as the main instrument is a cool idea, but it’s not like Kleinman sounds like any kind of virtuoso on the instrument, although she may actually be. But given the material she has to work with here, it’s hard to tell. Her riffs are ominous enough, but they still sound like a carnival gone haywire. Not even Jeff Schmid’s thunderous drumming can keep up the excitement all the way through the album.

The band enjoys singing about either themselves or apes in general. Four of the tracks here deal with these self images explicitly. There’s “Ape Town”, “Apessounds”, “Apes Theme”, and “Apes Salute”. Of the four, “Apes Salute” is probably the best since it’s bombastic without being musical. Just a lot of white noise effects produced from the drums and Weil spewing on about the “apes’ salute” in a cartoon-like voice. When they aren’t singing about themselves, then they’re reeling off such nature-infused wreckage like “Mountain of Steel”, “Into the Woods”, and “Land of Ruin”. Apparently, The Fugue in the Fog is a bit of a song cycle if not an outright concept album. I just wish it was enjoyable.

But it isn’t enjoyable simply because the songs all sound the same. I guess there were only so many gut-wrenching organ riffs to be composed. But they, along with Weil’s screaming, get tiresome really fast. Just like that old Atilla album, once you’ve heard a couple songs on here, you’ve pretty much heard them all. I really wanted to enjoy this album a bit more, as I thought The Apes definitely had an interesting thing going on, as well as a good look, but closer inspection and listening to this album more than enough times to get the point brought me to the conclusion that maybe that lost guitarist wouldn’t be such a bad thing to have after all. Fugue in the Fog is hopelessly swamped in its own musical murk.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/apes-fugue/