Sun City Girls

Funeral Mariachi

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Funeral Mariachi is the final studio album by the Sun City Girls, recorded a few months before drummer Charles Gocher's death from cancer in 2007. Richard and Alan Bishop formally dissembled the group in the aftermath. Funeral Mariachi is among, if not the, "straightest" set in the band's 27-year career. While it opens with the cultural clash of "Ben's Radio" -- which could have served as an introductory theme for the wild, genre-mashing field recordings issued by Alan's Sublime Frequencies imprint -- is a three-minute aural portrait of what made SCG such a compelling band in the first place, which is not the norm here. It folds mariachi, approximated voices of Spanish-language radio disc jockeys, Mexican pop, rock en español, Arabic, African, and surf music into one another violently; it is disorienting, cleverly constructed, and of course, expertly played. Things begin to settle into something decidedly gentler and more organic with "The Imam," as acoustic guitars, mandolin, and Richard's and Alan's chant-like vocals commence a folkish, slow melody interrupted only by Richard's high, wailing vocal above a single-note drone before shifting back. SCG's reliance on Arabic and African influences saturates the first half of the album; another standout is the exotically -- and uncharacteristically -- seductive “This Is My Name." Richard's lovely piano playing is highlighted on several tracks here, including “Vine Street Piano” and "El Solo." The latter is representative of album's second half, which reflects the direct influence of composer Ennio Morricone. The track's out-of-time nostalgic romanticism is displayed as Richard's lilting piano is underscored by Eyvind Kang's viola. It effectively mirrors Morricone's sense of reverie in SCG's musical vocabulary. The spaghetti western theme of "Blue West" is another blatant nod, as are the ghostly "Mineral Wells" and the actual cover of Morricone's own "Come Maddalena." While the closing title track is the most abstract thing here, it is also possessed of the most striking sense of beauty thanks to a gorgeous trumpet solo by David Carter. While Funeral Mariachi is a fitting final studio effort, fans of SCG know there are loads of live tapes in the can from their many shows. It is hoped that some of these will be forthcoming, contributing to their legacy as one of the most musically adventurous and culturally provocative groups ever to emerge from the American underground.

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