Miss Murgatroid

Methyl Ethyl Key Tones

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As soon as "Murgatroid Waltz in G" hits, with her accordion as apt to make whining feedback breaks as it is to pump out a melody that could make Lawrence Welk happy, it's clear Miss Murgatroid (aka Alicia J. Rose) is beholden to no one style on her debut record. Then again, it's to be expected from someone who thanks folks ranging from Mark Hosler and Negativland to Ennio Morricone and Nino Rota that wide-ranging results would occur. Taking one of the most popular yet sneered-at instruments in the world has to be a sign of an independent mind in the world of indie music, and Rose readily proves throughout that she can back up her choice with wonderful compositions. Suggesting everything from melancholy boulevardier strolls to weird, unsettled ambient drones throughout the album -- all while proudly noting in the liner notes "no guitars whatsoever" -- Rose, with the help of some friends here and there, comes up with a strange, lovely winner. More than once she could easily be creating the soundtrack for one of the creepiest European-set thrillers ever; the wheezing overdubs of "Under the Castle," combined with guest violin work, in particular could almost be an alternate choice to score The Third Man, say. "The Dreadmill," meanwhile, could easily be a cut from Angelo Badalamenti's work on The City of Lost Children. Her quite-lovely singing isn't present much here, but does turn up on two cuts -- on "The Clown Tube," the combination of distortion and accordion purr provides a truly unsettled bed for her hushed lead and the additional creepy bits from one Vein Loom Pete. Meanwhile, "Hacklespur's Final Tango" takes a much different route, Rose swathing her vocals to make it sound like a deep male recitation, an interesting gender twist carried out quite well.