The Stinking Badger of Java

If It's Fetishes You're After...

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If It's Fetishes You're After... is the first album involving the Narkiewicz/Corbett songwriting team in which they have expressed almost complete satisfaction with capturing the sounds that are in their heads. It would be difficult to imagine anything that could be more satisfyingly beautiful and alien than this album, with its extraordinary melodic panorama and fascinating songs. Melodies are bent and folded on top of themselves, refracted and cajoled, even broken in half, and the songs that result are amazing amalgams with elastic and crazily shifting melodies that are as gorgeous as they are strange. The band can be humorous but the pervading tone of the album is ominous, perhaps due to the very visible idiosyncracies of the band and its vision. It is always engaging listening, though. There are pronounced classical influences, especially in Susannah Provan's cello and Alessandro Servadei's brooding horns, which often recall David Angel's orchestration on Love's masterpiece Forever Changes, though with a sparser palette. The horn touches on "Chronikl Sin" are straight out of the Burt Bacharach songbook. Well-buried new wave flourishes pop up throughout the album, especially in some of the melodies, even, unbelievably, Wham! on "Monocotodyledan." In fact, Narkiewicz's vocals resemble a more-restrained and dexterous George Michael. "Eight Legged Mama" has the enveloping menace of industrial music, but could also pass for half-speed Joy Division with an acoustic rave-up closing the track. The Stinking Badger of Java does not play by the pop rules, nor do Narkiewicz and Corbett (with some help from Thomas K. Bollinger) show any type of respect for conventional songwriting precepts, and that in itself is worthy of praise, but that they pull it off with exquisite panache is cause for hosannahs. By following their creative impulses, the band develops a sound that has its own internal logic. They are just as happy incorporating dissonant medieval madrigal harmonies ("Lavender Dye"), belting out strange carnivalesque la-las ("Really") or closing the album with a spoken-word piece ("The Brass Is Drowning Out the Orchestra," courtesy of Bollinger) as they are writing a catchy hook. Melodies are stretched over entire verses and often bleed into what might be termed choruses, or choruses are made entire songs themselves, which is apparently what occured on the short but sweet "Blue Light Disco Supervisor." There is no vocabulary for what the Stinking Badger of Java does, but there are terms that seem appropriate: inspired, pure and simple. If It's Fetishes You're After..." is a twisted and oddly melodic gem; a new formula all its own.

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