XX Teens

Welcome to Goon Island

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Fueled by mixer/engineer Ross Orton's jerky drumming, Welcome to Goon Island plays like an art-rock disco experiment gone haywire. Constantly disaffected and boisterous Rich Cash leads the numbers with marble-mouthed abandon down a rabbit hole of incoherent delirium. It's hard to decipher exactly just what he might be saying, even if you can pick out the words. Liner notes clear up this dilemma by providing lyrics, and upon closer analysis, while reading along with the music, diligent listeners can learn that he's truly saying "Bing-bang! I saw the whole thing. A little baby lying by the fire. The amputee! She's got five legs, six legs and a croissant." Of course, the aforementioned lyric, snatched from the sidewinding march of "B-54," is one of the zaniest moments on this disc, but even the most sober moments on the appropriately goony-named Goon Island are pretty out there. The Fall's Mark E. Smith is an obvious touchstone for Cash (and a common comparison for music critics to use) as a slack-styled vocalist who swaggers and dabbles with spoken word. The wetness and messiness of the production glides the songs aimlessly on a sea of reverb and repetition, but the tribal grooves of repeating meaty riffs and skuzzy fuzz basslines don't have much to offer in the way of chord changes, instead offering bouncy synths and fat sax bursts until the three- or four-minute mark is up. Taking the place of graspable hooks, hard dynamic shifts come into play by way of additional instruments that are punched into the mix. The exception to the band's general "no choruses" rule is the brilliantly psychedelic "Sun Goes Up" with its sitar, heavy Easy Rider acid-flange, and washed-out reverberated "the sun goes up, the sun goes down" vocal. It's a hook to beat all hooks in the middle of a desolate recording: a desolate recording that demands several listens to truly penetrate but has worthwhile payoffs subtly placed throughout. Can a recording heaped with organ, piano, accordion, sequencers, samplers, synths, Indian instruments, and steel drums, truly be all that raw? It sure seems that way. At first.

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