Volvox

The Damage Begins at the Mouth

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A retrospective collection of this Australian trio's efforts from 1990 to 1996 or so, The Damage Begins at the Mouth is one of those curious things that perhaps never should have existed -- and yet, here it is. Not that it's not inherently unworthy or anything, but it's its own defiantly odd little mess, a mixture of tape-derived noise quirk, heavily echoed jam sessions, and a fiendish desire to do whatever the heck the band wanted to, no more or less. The liner notes betray no more information than what seem like cryptic references to performance art installments, but whatever the background, the slew of songs makes for strangely enjoyable enough listening. In some cases little more than fragments with spoken-word interjections or inaudible vocals over drones, clangs, beats, and whatever else was decided on at the time, the 26 fractured selections on the disc suggest what a world combining Ween, Thinking Fellers Union Local 282, and the Residents might sound like. The key difference? Nothing resembling hooks ever, given that no song spends much more than four minutes at a time within its odd little collage-like way, though the result, while not conventionally catchy, is more immediately entertaining than might be thought. Numbers like "Touched by the Mouth That's Wrong" and "Lemon Fritz," with its synth bassline and accordion part bubbling out of nowhere and then just as suddenly disappearing, follow no apparent logic whatsoever but their own. When everything becomes vaguely clearer to hear, as with the vocals on "Huhnenblut," it doesn't so much bring the experience closer as it does make it even more head-scratchingly odd.