Eclectic rock from the windy city that melds the best from punk, country and pop to form an engaging rock album is both catchy and puzzling.
Quasar Wut-Wut began life as a band in Michigan in 1990 before relocating to Chicago in 1999. Since arriving in Chicago, the band has gained much press for a live show that is not boring, to say the least. (The band's release party for their latest album, Taro Sound, featured an exotic fan dancer and a mystical hot dog helmet). The Chicago-based Glorious Noise Records (an off-shoot of the online music community), recognized the talent of this band and saw fit to give it the forum it deserved. By selecting Quasar Wut-Wut as the first band to sign to their label, they have given a truly unique band a voice in the indie-rock landscape.
The first note of this album startled the hell out of me. I was subsequently put at ease by the eccentric rock that followed -- but not much. Stylistically, Taro Sound is all over the map, providing a sound that refuses to be easily categorized. The album is comprised of song after song of bizarre lyrics, incongruent lyrical phrasing, and complex, often angular guitar melodies. Somehow, Quasar Wut-Wut manages to blend these facets of its music into a cohesive, peculiar brand of rock that you will likely have difficulty putting your arms around on the first listen or two. Subsequent listens (and there will be subsequent listens) will reveal well-crafted, pop songs that are as sincere as they are witty and catchy as they are puzzling.
The album cover features a homemade blimp hovering over the town of Taro Sound, the album's namesake and setting for the second track, "The Tramps of Taro Sound". The song is a blistering introduction into what is to follow. The song utilizes vivid imagery that is both mythological and grand to tell a tale of a brave young adventurer as he prepares in bittersweet ceremony for his final journey to sea to face the sirens on the "darker side" of town. The song's music is a mix of acoustic guitars and a swinging rhythm section that grooves through the verse and bounces through the chorus and bridge. Throughout the song, electric guitar wallows in and out of the foreground to give the song just the right amount of intensity during just the right moments.
In sharp contrast to the esoteric "The Tramps of Taro Sound", "Oh My Dear" is a direct, minimalist ballad. The lyrics, "hey my dear don't you cry for me / I was only using you like you were using me", are a transparent attempt at solace that, when combined with the sparse acoustic arrangement, make "Oh My Dear" the stuff cry-in-my-beer legends are made of.
The album seems to alternate between the two styles, never becoming complacent. The acoustic noodling of "Pulling Yarns" is underscored by a Black Francis-inspired, one-line chorus. "Ass Kissin' Lips" sounds the like the band is performing its own twisted rendition of a '60s pop tune, but sways like the town drunk under the weight of organs and subtle horns.
Because of the album's eclectic disposition and song titles like "Beaver Fever", the musicianship on the album may be overlooked. However, the interwoven guitar melodies of Matt Schwarz and Brent Sulek are nothing to disregard -- nor are the rhythms. Jordan Frank and Doug Walsh provide bombast and subtlety with equal amount of prowess, often in the same song. Throughout the album, guitars invoke exotic melodies and combine with a swinging rhythm section to create music that sounds like the night fallen on open landscapes. The balladry of the lyrics paints unique images of excited and often panicked characters. If that sounds grand in scope, it is because that is precisely what the album is. Taro Sound mixes all the right elements of punk, country, and rock to create a world of rocking unique to itself.
Taro Sound? Where is it? What does it mean? If it's half as interesting as the album, it may be a place worth checking out. I bet they have hookahs.