Tub Ring

Zoo Hypothesis

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There are few things sadder than a band that tries to be really weird and freaky but in fact isn't. (Yes, we're looking straight at you, Mr. Bungle, you lame Zappa fetishists.) Luckily, this is not a problem Chicago's Tub Ring ever runs up against; it's not that their fifth album doesn't have passages of extreme oddity, it's that they don't seem to be trying too hard for them, and they're balanced with a surprising knack for oddly poppy settings that bring out the true oddity of the breakdown sections. In other words, a song like the utterly freaky opener "Tiny, Little" works because it sounds like a collaboration between Tom Waits and They Might Be Giants on a song from the soundtrack to Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and "Wealth of Information" succeeds because of the dynamic tension between the passages of dub-influenced trippiness and the herky-jerky, almost rapped sections. The minute-long blast "The Viking Song" (parts of which bear an unfortunate resemblance to Oingo Boingo, poster children for that whole not-as-weird-as-they-think thing) is in brilliant contrast to the deceptively melodic, downright catchy "Raindrops," a song that would fit perfectly on an Olivia Tremor Control album. There are dull and/or annoying parts to Zoo Hypothesis, but the whole thing is so hyperactively edited that it's a thrill ride regardless.

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