Their live shows are absurdist carnival freakshows from the surreal and paranoid tail-end of an acid binge. The spectacle, when you are experiencing it, makes the music feel ancillary. This is a group that self-avowedly began in the trappings of concise, party-driven songcraft awash with feedback and artificially-siamese vocalists.
How, then, do Nuclear Power Pants possibly transition this to recorded medium? Well, in today’s climate you roll with it, as noise and absurdity are approaching a level of ubiquity in music today not unlike the presence of guitars in rock.
Opener “Got Soul, Need Body” has an awkwardly funky synth beat driving the stumbling franken-track along amidst the groaning, distorted vocals and feedback squall. Only twice (mid-track and in its last minute) are we given room to breathe from the claustrophobic din, as the track opens into an insistent freakout that would make any indie dance purveyor proud. The lyrics mirror the music in their feverishness, lamenting the lack of a body for the soul. The whole thing constitutes an eerie conjuring ritual to find something to contain the wildly flailing and stray layers of noise.
“Graveyard” with its walking bass line and verses filled with a blunt (almost childlike) sense of macabre (“Tonight we sleep in the graveyard, because ghosts are scary and I wanna see one”) is reminiscent of various subsets of rockabilly. Echoing its lyrical outlook, it is also one of the album’s simple, guilty pleasures (and its shortest track). The downtempo “Survivor” has surprisingly harmonious backup vocals rising like succulent cream above the dissonant music, the whole piece anchored by the consonant vibrations of a low octave pentatonic scale. ”Partytime U.S.A.” finds NPP firing on all cylinders, managing to find the perfectly addictive, mildly grating combination of feedback, distorted and clean vocals and party-ready rhythm and bass lines. It is quite possibly the best track on the album, and most representative of the band’s philosophy.
Often their formula of divining something engaging and listenable from squawking entropy don’t yield complete results. A great bass melody and intricate percussion are the saving graces on the often listless “Teeth of a Lion.” Similarly, “Screwdriver” has a great melody and stomping rhythm that almost, but not quite, makes up for the ungainly vocals. The cacophonous wails of “Destroy Destroi” don’t enjoy much of any help.
Nuclear Power Pants seem to have achieved their goal on this album: to distill and corral the feel of their chaotic yet enthralling live spectacle onto record for posterity. While they’ve produced something much stronger than I expected, and there are some standouts that are entertaining listens outside the context of NPP’s spectacle, if you’ve witnessed said spectacle much of the album ends up framed by your previous experiences. And whether Wicked merits a closer listen is highly dependent on how much you enjoy their live show, and how much of that enjoyment is dependent on watching black-light lit neon costumes prance absurdly around the stage.
Label: Wham City Records
Release date: September 26, 2009 7:41 PM (Ascendant in Aries 0° 0′ 0″)
Got Soul, Need Body
Teeth of a Lion
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