The power duo stakes have just ben upped! Heavier and more eclectic than Hella and USA is a Monster and rivalling Lightning Bolt for intensity, East West Blast Test have delivered an exiting second record. Not that there’s a competition, and to be honest there’s not much real musical similarity to be made between these bands, or if there is it’s only for a moment and then it’s gone away again. If I was to draw out sonic comparisons for East West Blast Test i’d need to discuss the avant-metal of Fantomas, the jazz and experimental tendencies of Frank Zappa and the grind of Discordance Axis as just a starting point. Popular Music For Unpopular People is not just coming from two places as the name suggests but from everywhere. Or at least the musical journey between New Jersey and California, back again and so forth stops off to rest at almost as many styles and genres as there are tracks on this album (23 – in 32 minutes) before the route finally leads to our stereos.
The duo’s interplay is consistently energetic and fun, generally loud and hectic and always showing an ability and engaging experimentalism.
On first listen I was fairly impressed by this record, but it seemed to dawn on me more and more each listen just how clever this album is. The fact that it was written by tapes being sent from one side of the country to the other seems to come out in its eclecticism and its sometimes fairly encapsulated track thematics but there is still linkage throughout. The duo’s interplay is consistently energetic and fun, generally loud and hectic and always showing an ability and engaging experimentalism. The songs work together even if the listener is initially surprised by a move from ultra-distorted guitars and blastbeats to the next track’s jazzy-glocks as we get at the start of the album from first track “Kind of Black and Blue” into “The Last Drop”. Most tracks are instrumental however, we aren’t surprised when a storming, frentic punk track is accompanied by viciously screamed vocals (“Anne R.Kaye”) or even by the cocktail scat-wails on the loungey “Lithe”; and “Passport to Papua” even offers some tribal chanting alongside its ethnic rhythyms.
the band seem most impressive when most crazy
The drumming is superb throughout, as you’d expect from avant legend Dave Witte, of Phantomsmasher, Burnt By The Sun and Discordance Axis fame. And Chris Dodge, known for his work in Spazz and No Use For A Name amongst others, offers an impressive display of instrumental versatililty turning his hand to guitar, bass piano and more as well as performing the vocal duties.
Popular Music For Unpopular People is a great listen with the breakneck, schizophrenic tracks “Don’t Drink” and “The Great Carny”, tuned-percussion, Sci-Fi-fest “Unfantastic Voyage” and Zappa/Soft Machine-esque fusion number “The Fathership Invasion” standing out as classics, along with the experimental “Unwanted Inches” and “Soft Robotics” and the horror-noise of “Otuko No Niku”: the band seeming most impressive when most crazy.
The New Year’s sales shelves are empty and the New Year’s new offerings are coming in, and this record stands out colourfully, both in sonic terms and with its garish, clashing packaging; Treat yourself.