Gang Wizard

Byzantine Headache

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Having released any number of CDs, vinyl records, and tapes over the past few years, Gang Wizard doubtless regard their Load Records debut as yet a further chance to get their own skew-whiff version of reality out there to a wondering public. And why not? But one of the enjoyable things about Byzantine Headache -- above and beyond the absolutely hilarious Crass knockoff album cover art -- is how it begins with one of the quietest, subtlest things they've yet recorded, "Another Misplayed Endgame," soft percussion and tones set against rising bursts of cymbal and wordless vocal stutters. Collected from a variety of live studio sessions as is the group's wont -- the one listed exception being a track taken from a Seattle live show -- Byzantine Headache continues in Gang Wizard's general vein of being a combination of random noise, improvisational inspiration, and sometimes catchy riffs even in spite of themselves. Such is definitely the case with what turns out to be the central melody of sorts on "Soft Crust from 00," a bit like Morricone composing for no wave, and the steadily building mournful march of "When the Song Begins." A couple of moments are as minimal as they get -- "Our Second Failed Disney Limo Ride" sounds like an amplified thumb piano more than anything else. Meanwhile, moments like the distorted chipmunk shout/singing on "The Pretty Ape" call to mind the ultrabizarreness of bands like Chrome, even down to the rumbling and frenetic drumming. Best song title, meanwhile, for the science fiction geeks around the world: "The Ridicule of Pern."

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