[12 July 2005]
Remember Rae Dawn Chong? Beat Street? Commando? Beauty of the African-American/Native American/Irish/Chinese-American persuasion?
Now, you also remember Donkey Kong, the digital GORILLA?
Exactly, it’s not that funny.
Overlooking the insipid title, Mahjongg’s RaYDONcoNG marginally rises above on the strength of geek beat fondling. A clanging and frenetic affair, the album dips its pen in the familiar No Wave well of Konk, DNA, yaddah yaddah yaddah. The band sets itself apart with a left(ist) eye wink to Fela and a firm right-hand on David Byrne’s noodle, combining to form an indefinable anything goes aesthetic. However, the cut ‘n’ paste eclecticism is often more list-heavy than content-steady, veering more messy than ready-to-print. Like the Rubik’s collage that fractures the cover, RaYDONcoNG hints at an obfuscated image.
This fog of Mahjongg is a shame because the band appears capable of handling the kitchen sink approach. On the fast and furious “The Rrabbitt”, the band clips gankogui-type beats with the steadiness of a speed freak detoxing on Ritalin as bountiful bass bounces about. With filtered vocals and guitars fisting the rhythm, the effect is unnatural spazz funk. The contrast certainly has its place; where !!!‘s Louden Up Now slithered in a slick puddle of grease, Mahjongg jumps up and jerks its limbs with the frenzy of Napoleon Dynamite after inhaling a bale of coke. Its funk is awkward, thinks-it’s-smart, f(l)ailing, and just right for the soulblivious.
Even on the relatively calmer and focused “Hot Lava”, Mahjongg cops a manic push-comes-to-passive-aggressive-shove attitude. The track struts forcefully to Pesci-pushed car door bludgeons to the dome at a Take Me Out tempo while remaining in a haze of flat and faraway females blathering on, guys chanting/chatterring to a stoned disco beat, and sharp shattering guitars littering the floor with 4 a.m. drunken did-I do-that’s? After painting an image so smeared with barley and sucrose, the band deftly sneaks in a fragment of a melody to create some order and to bring a semblance of hope to the incessant chorus, “This is not far from over.” The fun of “Hot” is ambiguous, unsure, and ideal for the tight tees set (both the fellas and the ladies go, “Don’t!”). It is self-love that allows Mahjongg to stomp in such curious circles, like a six-year-old in cowboy regalia thinking his shadow is Sitting Bull, that there is no surprise when the track finally rewinds to its own selekta’s delight, aptly fading on a Kanye coda.
While these tracks represent the best of Mahjongg’s attention deficiency, the rest of RaYDONcoNG is scattershot. “Bbg-9298” begins with tolerable static, blips, and trash can bangs to get the kids doin’ the Middling Class Trucker Cap Dance, but at five minutes becomes an excessive indulgence in white noise, empty observations (“AIDS is spreading / Like peanut butter”), and beats as funky as Pryor’s choia chong characterization of Vietnamese music. Perhaps to iron out the rough creases, the band also models a pair of Dockers, as on “The Stubborn Horse” which struts to a positivo bass march, modern rock riffing, and doo doo do doo doo do doo doooos. Certainly, “Thegg”‘s Beautiful Day cribbing gives further cause for concern, but the official wood-chopper is the tortured speechifyin’ from the Book of Lennon (“Woman is the Nigger of the World”) and neo-Lenin (“Woman is the President of the Universe”). Each individual part appears thoughtful and clever, but Mahjongg mixes them together in a swirling undercooked goulash—and garnishes it with generally disaffected and constipated vocals—that is just plain messy.
Oddly enough, in spite of the overall mediocrity of RaYDONcoNG, Mahjongg scatters hints of its musical efficacy. Capable performance and captivating ideas occasionally bubble to the surface, namely on the stronger tracks. Additionally, its impatient call to the ADD set suggests an urgent live performance. However, as one of the collected slogans in the linear notes suggests, the band’s “fuck facts” attitude precludes a serious focus on—hit me Murs—Good Music. Without a clear vision, Mahjongg’s sound is just a series of disjointed riffs, effects, and thoughts—tight within its tight circle, but who really wants to taste that biscuit? Hopefully the group doesn’t get caught in its own vapors; after all, bullshit smells the world over.
Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/mahjongg-raydoncong/