Known for releasing albums that not only challenge the listener, but also for giving new meaning to extreme music, Crucial Blast continues the pattern with SOIHADTOSHOOTHIM's "Alpha Males & Popular Girls". The debut full-length (after several splits and mini albums) from this New York/New Jersey band mixes spastic dissonant, sometimes grindcore-like and always artsy tunes with a bizarre pop sensibility led by the sweet-yet-unnerving (and sometimes bizarrely operatic) vocals of Libby Schaub (a.k.a. Contessa Von Bismark). The demented (and bloody) artwork and sardonic, left-of-sane lyrics are exactly what one would expect from such a tangled web of psychotic musical episodes.
Setting aside Schaub's vocals for a moment, the music itself will fray the nerve endings with serrated riffing and the rhythm section equivalent of a meth lab explosion. It would be grossly misleading to label the carnage as lacking direction because of the unbridled flurry of notes unleashed. And it not grindcore; it merely borrows elements from the crazed genre. Guitars squeal and bass lines chug fuzzed-up nastiness (listen to "Another Roman e' Clef by Hart Bochner" for a great example of the nutty bliss). There are in fact snippets of groove and more than a few hooky moments. And that's where Schaub comes in. Listening to her commanding delivery I'll find myself thinking of everyone from Debbie Harry to Julianna Hatfield to Chrissie Hynde and then wonder if the woman is suffering from a demonic possession so strong that the suggestion of exorcism elicits loud guffaws. The bottom line is that Schaub's voice is powerful for reasons that go well beyond something as simple as range. The "out there" bits that she makes even more manic are balanced by some particularly enthralling bursts of almost danceable melodies — the beautiful singing and infectious keyboard lines of "Sherman Tank-Flavored Anvil Forcefeedings" especially, but also the snappy "John Cleese and the Fountain of Youth". The odd juxtapositions are also what makes "Alpha Males & Popular Girls" absorbing. Even so, the catchy moments can sometimes be overshadowed by the zany instrumentation. A certain frame of mind is also required.
While I wouldn't go so far as to call any of this genius, there is much of value here. Provided you limit your caffeine intake 10 hours prior to spinning "Alpha Males & Popular Girls", the experience should be rather refreshing, and one that is tailor made for those digging on bands like MELT BANNANA and DAUGHTERS.