Double Naught Spy Car

Danger High

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    9
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AllMusic Review by

Danger High is visual music of such sheer delight, it does the near-impossible task of being better than the group's accomplished first album, Comb in Blue Water. Double Naught Spy Car is not a readily compartmentalized band. There are too many good points to get across in this instrumental outfit of two guitars, bass, and drums. Of course, there will also be cello, banjo, cowbell, and violin. Obviously there will be vibes, bells, and rayguns. And yes, rest assured, a brass marching band starts the CD. What's important about all these (literal) bells and whistles is that this is not some Spike Jones sound-effect gimmick. Good songs prevail, and there's always a sturdy tree beneath the ornaments. All points between sinister and goofy, every note invests in mood, attitude, and panache without being fluff. The presence of accomplished co-producer Steven Rhodes likely adds some brave gravy to the mix, and his engineer background keeps things sparkling clear without flattening the energy. The title cut, "Danger High!," is a glistening switchblade number that darts to and fro from the classroom to the pool hall. "Lily St. Cyr" (a longtime staple in their live sets) is a slow rock smoldering diva in sunglasses at one a.m. -- campy and melodramatic, with Stan Ridgway drummer Joseph Berardi stoically sentencing his skins to life without parole. "Macedonia 6-5000" is a delicious Fender Stratocaster sheik of the high desert, a bellydancer on a surfboard. The quartet takes turns spazzing out on their magic carpets, and it sends a giddy chill up your camel's spine. "What's Your Hurry" is an iguana in a zoot suit, slinking along Sunset Boulevard looking for a handout. There is a recognizable warmth in every twang and reverence in every crash. "Helicopter" is a great showcase; it dares you not to giggle -- a pseudo-Jetsons theme hopscotching between disco and ska, with Marc Doten deftly flipping the pages of his bass, which further gives way to a babbling debate between Paul Lacques and Marcus Watkins on dueling wah-pedal guitars. "Someone's Creeping in My Yard" is a ballroom of exhausted tuxedos and martini hangovers, twirling in a dreamy haze of memory, with Berardi's brushwork shuffling acrobatically through vibraphone street lamps. "Kay Sara Sarah" is a sparkling beauty -- an Aloha TV Christmas Special closing theme song, with Lacques' rubbery slide melody carrying the listener away on clouds of '50s kitchen countertop nostalgia. A couple of tracks, like "Crosseyed San Paku," trudge along in a more straightforward manner that dispenses with the polish, but even these less-memorable passages have teeth. Another staple from their live show, "Marina Del Hayride," whispers out a Shaft theme that morphs into an amazing guitar bone-saw rhythm section epileptic seizure, and hats off to Watkins for keeping time as the world around him breaks apart repeatedly in a wonderful rock chaos (see them live if you can). "The Mayor's Procession" is an unsettling close to the disc; a country-bumpkin grim reaper marching into the swamp. The freak show is almost too much to bear, but its cinematic scope actually becomes the icing on the cake. When all the sweat dries, Danger High is music for musicians, a hidden treasure and a triumphant soundtrack for all those brilliant squares out there.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 0:37
2 4:24
3 5:28
4 3:52
5 3:48
6 0:08
7 4:37
8 0:12
9 4:29
10 5:20
11 3:22
12 4:29
13 0:47
14 4:43
15 6:05
blue highlight denotes track pick