PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

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.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.

Music

Jazz Composer Maria Schneider Takes on the "Data Lords" in Song

Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider released Data Lords partly as a reaction to her outrage that streaming music services are harvesting the data of listeners even as they pay musicians so little that creativity is at risk. She speaks with us about the project.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.

Books

The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.

Books

'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.

Music

1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.

Film

'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.

Music

The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.

Music

Mary Halvorson Creates Cacophony to Aestheticize on 'Artlessly Falling'

Mary Halvorson's Artlessly Falling is a challenging album with tracks comprised of improvisational fragments more than based on compositional theory. Halvorson uses the various elements to aestheticize the confusing world around her.

Music

15 Overlooked and Underrated Albums of the 1990s

With every "Best of the '90s" retrospective comes a predictable list of entries. Here are 15 albums that are often overlooked as worthy of placing in these lists, and are too often underrated as some of the best records from the decade.

Books

'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.

Music

20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.

Film

Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.

Film

The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.

Television

Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).

Music

Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.