Double Naught Spy Car

Comb in Blue Water

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Double Naught Spy Car is a fearless hybrid of cloak-and-dagger burlesque, surf, martini, cowboy, and hipster existentialism that defies readily available categories. Although it's an instrumental album, Comb in Blue Water speaks volumes to the listener, featuring a quartet of seasoned geeks with a broad vocabulary. "jan-michael vincent" explodes with a rubbery melody line and go-go dancer rhythms, further punctuated by rock star snarls and stumbling rage. Here and elsewhere, Paul Lacques' lap-steel slide guitar is an expressive voice, channeling the weirdness of a theremin and the nostalgia of Don Ho. Even Middle Eastern raga peeks out through the cracks once or twice, and somehow it's all perfectly normal. "Double Naught Spy Car," supposedly the band's theme song, heralds the coming of a gunslinger on a Harley Davidson -- an ominous, confident outlaw whose ultra-serious tone will undoubtedly bring a bemused smile to the listener. Marcus Watkins fires away in disjointed unpredictability, spraying solos of terrifying delight. "Out Walked Bud/In Walked Bud" incorporates the ultra-cool necktie vibes and Telecaster twang that bridge the gap between the jazz clubs of Monk and the shorelines of Jerry Cole. "For Your Needs Away From Home" is a dreamy muzak cocktail, a confection of yesteryear simplicity that delights as it fizzes on the ears. Further down jazz lane, Duke Ellington gets a fresh coat of paint with "The Mooche"; cry-baby guitar pedals panhandle the ears closer to 1966 Pittsburgh than the original Depression-era Harlem. It's creepy and infectiously silly. "The Rube Cubist" hits like a thunderclap, cruising double swingtime with Watkins soloing like a mad carpenter with five pounds of nails. Marc Doten's bass defies the background as usual with wrathful, headbanging growls, while elsewhere on the disc he bounces as carefree as hopscotch on a summer day. "I Rose in a Field" is a vastly satisfying stroll through bass dub and reggae downtempo. Lacques shines on the lap-steel melody, sliding like Sinatra and hiccuping like Buddy Holly. Doten and chameleon-esque drummer Michael Tempo lay an understated groove that could easily stand alone for an hour. The disc's closer, "Deutsch Bag," is a staggering hallucination that marches toward a flea market of mandolin, banjo, slide whistle, castanets, and other assorted oddities. Loaded with personality, humor, and intelligence, Comb in Blue Water is as ambitious an album as it is successful. It's like throwing Spike Jones, Ennio Morricone, the Ventures, and Count Basie all together in a gangster movie, stoned.

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