Centimeters

The Facts of Destiny

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Los Angeles art-noise group the Centimeters, after several years' worth of peculiar gigs around their hometown, made their full-length debut with 1999's The Facts of Destiny. Produced by Don Bolles of the Germs, a noted fan of outsider and experimental music, The Facts of Destiny for the most part sounds remarkably non-self-conscious in its weirdness. Led by singer/songwriters Nora Keyes and Max Gomberg, whose arch, theatrical vocals are the band's focal point, the Centimeters think nothing of swinging blithely from fairly traditional indie pop tunes like "Fangs" to a brief piece of haunted voice and guitar minimalism like "Look at Me Now" to the grinding semi-industrial new wave of the chanted "Hovering Ponies" and the vaguely threatening synth-based chill of "Kids Have More Fun." These last two songs, as well as several others, owe much to the last golden age of experimentalism in Los Angeles, the early-'80s reign of bands like Suburban Lawns (whose shrieky lead singer, Su Tissue, Keyes occasionally resembles in her more unhinged moments) and Wall of Voodoo, who in their early days held a similarly anything-goes viewpoint as the Centimeters. By the closing days of the 20th century, that kind of good-humored experimentalism and cheerful disinterest in playing to audience expectations was unfortunately rare in Los Angeles and elsewhere, which makes the deliberately annoying likes of the just plain weird "Desert Yodel" (imagine early country music as performed by a member of Monty Python's Flying Circus in their "Pepperpots" personas, the howling working-class housewives) sound almost touching in their eagerness to get under the audience's collective skin. The Facts of Destiny is more appealing in its less self-conscious moments, which thankfully prevail.

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