Music

The Apes: Oddeyesee

Adrien Begrand

The Apes

Oddeyesee

Label: Frenchkiss
US Release Date: 2003-05-06
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon
iTunes

How can you not get a huge kick out of The Apes? The Washington, D.C. quartet shamelessly embraces every cheesy aspect of '70s progressive rock, from the bombastic music, to the fantastic album concepts. They wear costumes onstage. They use pseudonyms: Paul "Count 101" Weil (vocals), Amanda "Majestic Ape" Kleinman (organ), Erick "Jackie Magic" Jackson (bass), and drummer Jeff "Ronald Wolf" Schmid. They post MP3 clips of arguments during rehearsal on their web site. They play the heaviest music this side of Kyuss. And best of all, they do it with no guitars whatsoever, with nothing but a "Big Bottom"-esque combination of organ, bass, and drums.

The good old Hammond organ isn't used nearly enough in rock music these days. From John Lord's classic licks on all those Deep Purple albums, to Uriah Heep, to Steppenwolf, it was an integral part of that ultra-heavy sound of metal in its days of infancy, but was cast aside in the '80s (Paul Schaffer seemed to be the only guy who played it, so its coolness might have plummeted as a result), and in the recent stoner rock revival, has only been used minimally. The Apes, though, take the wicked, sinister sound of the Hammond and make it the centerpiece of their music, its thunderous, distorted notes sounding equally as effective as any killer riff by Tony Iommi. Of all the bands that The Apes sound like, the band seems to draw the biggest influence from Vanilla Fudge, whose sludgy cover of "You Keep Me Hanging On" remains to this day, one of the heaviest songs ever recorded. Like a lumbering beast rising out of the primordial ooze, The Apes' 2001 debut album, The Fugue in the Fog, was monstrously heavy, with endless, distorted organ, and pummeling, deliberately slow drumming, not to mention some relentless howling by frontman Weil. The 2002 EP Street Warz continued the onslaught, the band sounding even tighter.

The primary challenge among minimalist bands like The Apes, though, is to keep that sound fresh over several albums. The great '90s band Morphine did it, and if The Apes' new album Oddeyesee is any indication, it looks like they're well on their way to do so as well.

If their first album sounded like a concept album, but wasn't exactly clear whether it was one or not, Oddeyesee is a full-fledged, pompous, over the top, Epic Concept Album. The story is so gloriously ridiculous, it'll bring out the inner Rush fan in you: our heroes (the band) hop aboard an ark and sail down a river into a scary jungle in search of a mystical, two-headed butterfly, encountering such challenges as a couple of brains bent on world domination, an amnesia-inducing fog, nasty hunchbacks who like to play videogames, and a climactic encounter with an evil overlord called The Worwiz, who threatens to destroy the world with his nuclear arsenal. Really, I'm not kidding.

But that's just half the fun. The Apes make some musical strides on the new album, putting their debut to shame. The production by Punchy is much clearer than that of the debut, Weil's singing (which often greatly resembles the voice of Fu Manchu leader Scott Hill) is more out in the open, as opposed to being hidden by various effects, and best of all, Kleinman's organ playing isn't just the usual stomping, distorted sound that so dominated the debut. Her talents shine on Oddeyesee, often adding layers of harmonies and more gentle, ambient melodies to the songs, most notable on the lullaby-like instrumental "While the Majestic Ape Sleeps". And don't get me started on the fabulous disco coda in "Crystal Coco Tech".

Best of all, these songs rock. "Imagik" is led by a booming drum beat and bass line during the verses, as Weil sneers, "River splits your mind in two, visitors in these dead seas," before the whole band kicks it into gear in the choruses and bridge, only to come to a halt in the verses again, making the song sound like Deep Purple's "Highway Star", if "Highway Star" was a song about driving in a jalopy that kept stalling. "Aboard the Ark" is brilliant, one of the best songs the band has recorded, with a brutal beat, a memorable organ riff, and some of Weil's stoner rock vocals spewing strange, nautical-themed lyrics (I guess you could say it's like "Highway Star", if Deep Purple were singing about a boat this time): "Takes eight hands and wormwood trees, let the river control the speed." "Children of Brainbow and Brainbro" and "Gemini Butterfly" get into more psychedelic territory, while "Forest of Confusion" and "Worwiz's Modern Problems" rock harder than anything you'll hear all year.

As for how the story of Oddeyesee turns out, it's a bit hazy (most concept albums tend to be frustratingly vague), but there's no denying that this is one colossal, fun rock record. It goes on a touch too long (its running time is 52 minutes) and gets a bit stale around "Myops Coin Ops" (uh, that's the song about the videogame playing hunchbacks), but by the time you get to the seven-minute closing song "Drop the Bomb" and its mantralike chorus of "Worwiz got the bomb what you gonna do," your faith in All Things Ape is renewed, and you can't help but sing along like an idiot. From the debut album, to the EP, to Oddeyesee, there's a definite progression happening in The Apes' sound, and if this keeps up, we just might be in store for something even cooler than this. In the meantime, though, sit back and dig the hell out of this one.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image