RUBBER CLOWN CAR – Album Review: “Horse Logic”

Rubber Clown Car album

One of my absolute favorite-named bands has got to be Rubber Clown Car.  Based in Oswego, Illinois, on the far western outskirts of greater Chicago, they were one of the earliest bands I featured on this blog, three years ago in April 2016. The band is the brainchild of singer/songwriter Dirk Prysby, a wildly imaginative and zany guy who creates songs that are thoroughly original, sometimes serious but often hilarious, and unlike anything else you’ve ever heard. He also happens to be a thoughtful and creative lyricist who’s quite skilled on the six-string. His quirky, off-kilter vocal style wouldn’t get him very far on The Voice or American Idol, but that’s okay, as it’s perfectly suited for their eccentric songs. Besides Dirk, Rubber Clown Car includes Fred Beasley (drums, backing vocals, guitar) and Tony Pantalones (bass, keyboards and everything else).

Rubber Clown Car

Their sound has been compared to a mixture of XTC, Bob Mould, the Damned, the Who, GBV, the Replacements, and Matthew Sweet, with one reviewer observing they’re like “the Beatles on Quaaludes”. Formed back in the mid-2000s, Rubber Clown Car started out making fairly straightforward music drawing from rock, grunge and punk elements. Their first release was the excellent 2006 album Make the Noise, featuring one of my favorite of their songs “Home in the Suburbs”, a clear-eyed commentary on the American Dream. They subsequently began experimenting with their sound and lyrical themes, incorporating more psychedelic and alternative elements into their music. This can be clearly heard on their follow-up 2008 release Music “They” Don’t Want You To Hear, with songs like “The Boy With the Plexiglas Head” and “Gene Pool Party”. Since then, they’ve been prolific in their output, releasing eight more albums, including such wonderful titles as Jesus is not a Weapon, Cake Solves Heartaches and Let’s Go Bowling.

Their latest effort is Horse Logic, an ambitious and trippy tour de force featuring 18 tracks, which dropped in March. It’s perhaps their most experimental and eclectic work yet, with songs ranging from rock to psychedelic to blues to ballads, and everything in between. Employing lots of unusual sound effects and discordant melodies, and incorporating snippets of song, voice, sound, and spoken-word contributed by several of the band’s Twitter friends, they’ve created interesting and sometimes outlandish compositions. Because it’s such a long album with so many tracks, I’ll discuss what I feel are the highlights, along with a few others that provide a good representation of the work.

Kicking things off is the delightfully psychedelic “Where Have All the Mushrooms Gone?“, an appropriately-titled song that sounds pretty much like what I would expect an hallucinogenic trip on magic mushrooms to sound like. It begins with a woman in a distinctly British accent saying “Right. So, what shall I see?” followed by sounds of a horse neighing a response to her question. We’re then greeted by an onslaught of exuberant cinematic rock, accompanied by dramatic soaring choruses, bouncy xylophone, and a colorful assortment of weird sound effects you might hear in a carnival funhouse, along with more of those neighing horses. The guitars, bass and percussion are all perfection, more than ample proof that Rubber Clown Car are incredible musicians. Dirk croons the whimsical lyrics that include “Rub-a-dub, where the dub, where do I put my bubba? Wubba wubba it’ll come out if ya scrub it. And the clouds all turn to oil. Telepathic banana.” The song closes with horses neighing in rather diabolical-sounding tones.

The next track “Unusual Ducks and Rainy Days” is even trippier, opening with a creepy voice declaring “I don’t want a goddam robot serving me a chicken!” A slow drumbeat kicks in along with riffs of funky guitar and bass, and Dirk’s quirky vocals backed by his own choruses. From there on out, the song becomes an extended psychedelic trip that lasts nearly 11 minutes, growing increasingly strange with the addition of all sorts of crazy carnival, barnyard and zoo sound effects, including honking horns, buzzing mosquitoes, monkeys and elephants. Through it all, the guys lay down some fine bluesy guitar runs.

Abruptly changing the vibe, the band turns wistful and serious on “Girl I Left Behind“, a sweet but melancholy song about a lost love. The twangy guitars and keyboard synths are really wonderful, and Dirk’s heartfelt vocals are great, with nice backing vocals by the Inflateable Girls, who also appear on several other tracks on Horse Logic. “Sandbox” sees the band getting in touch with their playful inner child:  “Didn’t matter what anyone would say. We only want to play in our sandbox.” Musically, the song features a catchy tempo, upbeat jangly guitars and effervescent spacey synths, accompanied by sounds of children having fun at a playground.

The lovely title track “Horse Logic” is a brief instrumental interlude with beautiful jangly strummed guitar and sweeping string synths creating an enthralling atmospheric soundscape. Next up is “Action Brats“, one of the more bizarre tracks on the album. It starts off with the opening lines from the Elvis Presley classic “Heartbreak Hotel” sung by The Quiet Professor (the band’s and my Twitter friend Logos Pilgrim, who’s an author, artist, blogger and singer). Then a repetitive thumping drumbeat and funky bass line take over, accompanied by an eerie assortment of sounds, including creepy childrens’ voices, gregorian chants, and munchkin-like noises. The track ends with a snippet from what sounds like a Japanese song. That magic mushroom trip that started off the album is now on full-blown steroids!

Dirk sings the blues on “The Hanging Mess“, baring his soul with heart-wrenching vocals lamenting his fragile state: “Blue, oh I don’t know which way to turn / I just can’t get through to you.” The bluesy, twangy and distorted guitar work is really outstanding. “Evil Shrimp” is another bizarre track that had me thinking ‘what the hell?’, yet loving it’s great hard-driving noise rock vibe. The song features some terrific gnarly guitar work and snappy percussion, accompanied by sounds of wailing police sirens and strange muffled vocals that are completely unintelligible.

One of the best rock tunes on the album is “Our Magic Sauce“, a musically complex track featuring a killer psychedelic guitar solo by British musician Leg Puppy. There are some background murmuring vocals that are indeciferable, so this is essentially an instrumental track. On the folk-rockish “Turn the Wheel Earl” Dirk yearns for home, sampling lines from the Beatles “A Hard Days Night” (“when I’m home, everything seems to be right“) and Simon & Garfunkel’s “Homeward Bound” (“home, where my thought’s escaping“).

My personal favorite on the album is the captivating ballad “Sleep Tight“. The jangly and chiming guitars are gorgeous, and I’m elated that the band did a duet with The Quiet Professor, who has a voice like spun silk. Her vocals harmonize beautifully with Dirk’s as they croon “Your heart will be broken a thousand times. By words unspoken or a thousand lies. You’ve got it all behind you, dream away, dream away.” The charming video for the song was created by another Twitter friend of the band’s and mine – Sherry Ruth.

Closing the album is “Cabbage” a quirky two-minute long rock’n’roll ditty that ends things on a fun, upbeat note. The song consists of just strummed guitar and Dirk crooning “If you wanna be my baby, this is what you gotta say”, followed by a lot of melodic gibberish. At song’s end, he exclaims “Woo, that was in interesting tune!

I think Horse Logic is brilliant, and their best work yet.  Rubber Clown Car won’t appeal to everyone, but if you’re the type of person who goes for music that’s offbeat, completely original and fun, you’ll enjoy this album. I certainly do!

Connect with Rubber Clown Car on  Twitter 
Stream:  Spotify / Soundcloud
Purchase:  Bandcamp  / iTunes / cdbaby

MORNING FUZZ – Single Review: “I’ll Be Around”

Morning Fuzz I'll Be Around

As I mentioned in a recent review, so many artists and bands that I’ve previously featured on this blog seem to be releasing new music in 2019, and another is Morning Fuzz, an outstanding rock band from Brooklyn, New York. Nearly two years ago, in April 2017, I reviewed their fantastic hard-hitting single “Silent Sun” (which you can read here). They subsequently dropped a great rock ballad “Fellow Creep” that December, and I’m thrilled they’re back with a new single “I’ll Be Around“, which drops today.

The band has been around for 10 years now, and has released a fair number of excellent recordings, including two EPs, a 2013 album Chasing Ghosts, and several singles. Formed in 2009 by singer/songwriter & guitarist Frank Fussa and his childhood friend, bassist Chris Johanidesz after the breakup of their previous band Ultra High Frequency, Morning Fuzz was later joined by longtime friend and guitarist Michael Cullari, but has been hampered by several changes in drummers (something that’s plagued several other bands I’ve written about). In Spring, 2018, new drummer Dan Leo came on board, putting them back on track and in the studio recording new music. “I’ll Be Around” is their first single on what will be their forthcoming album that the band hopes to release later in the year. It was expertly produced and mixed by Lou Giordano, and engineered by Frank, Aaron Bastinelli, and Benny Grotto.

It’s an exuberant, upbeat song, filled with the dynamic riffs, tight rhythms and melodic grooves we’ve come to expect from Morning Fuzz. Frank and Michael’s intricate guitar work is impressive, and I love how they make them chime in the bridge. Chris drives the song forward with his deep, strutting bass line while Dan deftly keeps the beat on his drum kit. Frank possesses a beautiful and powerful singing voice with considerable range, and sounds fantastic whether he’s crooning or wailing. One of the most striking aspects of the track is the guys’ sublime four-part harmonies that call to mind the Beatles or Beach Boys. I really love their sound, and found myself loving this song more with each listen. “I’ll Be Around” is superb, and I’m excited about hearing more new songs from them.

The lyrics seem to speak of the struggles we face with regard to making choices about which paths to take in life, and both giving and getting love and support from others through good times and bad along the way.

I’ll be around
Even in that crazy part of town
And I’ll figure out
Even when the rain is pouring down
We’ll work it out
When there’s not a drop of love to be found
Don’t run away
No hide and seek, no roads to stray

Which way to go 
Another fork splits up the road 
Futures untold 
Get on my side 
And we will float above the tide 
Might not make it through the night 
But it’s alright

Their song premiered on Thresher TV with a wonderful video of the band performing their song in Frank’s basement studio. Their natural charisma and joy of playing music is clearly evident. He also speaks a bit about how they started out writing and playing songs way back in 1999, and of his love for making music. Take a look:

Morning Fuzz has an upcoming show on Saturday, March 30 with Flak Jacket at The Rail in Smithtown, NY

Connect with Morning Fuzz:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Soundcloud / Spotify /  YouTube
Purchase it:  iTunes / Bandcamp

REVOLUTION RABBIT DELUXE – Album Review: “Tales From Armageddonsville”

Revolution Rabbit Deluxe

Being a music blogger who’s earned a reputation for writing reviews, I receive a continuous stream of requests from indie artists and bands to listen to – and hopefully review – their music. So it was a pleasant surprise when I was contacted by Welsh band Revolution Rabbit Deluxe (is that not a great band name!) about their debut album Tales From Armageddonsville. I gave a few songs a listen and was immediately intrigued by their lively, Brit-rock sound and deep, thought-provoking lyrics.

Revolution Rabbit Deluxe began as a solo act by guitarist & vocalist Revolution Rabbit (RR), but eventually grew into a four-piece band with the addition of three very talented ladies: May Dupp (guitar, vocals), Una Corne (drums, vocals) and Chanda Lear (bass, vocals). How can you not love a band with such a sense of humor? In their bio, they describe themselves thusly:

Revolution Rabbit Deluxe live in one house, just like the Monkees, and in between writing, recording and gigging, they tour the world looking for suitable crimes to solve. They lost their summer jobs as archaeologists on Time Team after a drunken lunchtime argument with Tony Robinson led to an unfortunate incident with a toilet, some dynamite, and a very angry, wet, red-faced, tender-assed TV host. To this day, Tony twitches violently when he passes a lavatory.

The album kicks off to a rousing start with “Tarred and Feathered,” a pointed attack on racism and inequality that are institutionalized by the state: “When you’re judge and jury to approve but are disapproving. / Our best qualities are arrogance and pride.”  The band delivers chugging riffs of gritty guitars set to a hard-driving beat and strutting bass line. The piano keys used throughout the track provide a nice melodic counterpoint to the guitars, making for quite an exciting and powerful song.

The band takes on cultural and media mind-control on “Pavlov’s Dogs,” driving home their message with a barrage of punchy guitars, fuzzy riffs, screeching synths and thumping drumbeats. RR fervently laments of the false expectations we fall victim to: “See that girl, she’s so unhappy. Thinks her life should be like the silver screen. Sometimes she wants to scream./ The video is so seductive. Feeds the dream, but denies the needs.”

One of my favorite tracks is “In God We Trust,” a song that calls into question one’s faith in God with an air that exists somewhere between a catchy Beach Boys-esque vibe and a darker psychedelic tone. RR implores “Save me, why don’t you save me?” He goes on to ask why not save a whole assortment of entities that society deems ‘undesirable’ – like the hookers, the pushers, the pimps, the dealers, the one-parent family and the union local. He finally caustically beseeches “And while you’re at it, you can save the man. And while you’re at it, save the man in the moon!

I Can’t Change Your Mind” speaks to mental illness, with jangly guitars and spooky synths that lend a strong 80s feel. RR laments of his feelings of loneliness and irrelevance: “I’m alone here in the dark. / Please don’t throw in scraps of hope. / Fade away, I fade away. A shadow lost on sunny days” while a backing chorus whisper/sings the refrain “I cannot take much more. I cannot change your mind” throughout the track.

The terrific lo-fi guitar-driven tracks “Going Solo” and “Chords Played All Wrong” would have been right at home on the Beatles’ White Album, and “Blackwood Calling” has a throwback 60s Brit-rock vibe, but with an early 80s New Wave sensibility. More grungy lo-fi goodness abounds on “Helen Needs,” a song about a woman looking for relief from her negativity and self-pity. “Helen needs another love song. Spitting sweetness from her headphones.” I especially like the quirky little guitar notes and powerful drumbeat that continue throughout the track.

Another favorite of mine is the hard-hitting and provocative “Whore?” – a song that, in the band’s words, “deconstructs the modern Western family and asks why so many people in the Third World suffer to give us our standard of living.” “You perfect family, for you it’s milk and honey, while for others it’s a river of blood.” The song has a bit of a Depeche Mode vibe, with its strong, crunchy guitars, spacey synths and the kind of heavy, mesmerizing beat that I love. “Catechisms Cataclysms” urges us to change our wicked ways for the betterment of the world, delivered with a barrage of gritty guitars and a hard-driving beat.

Armageddonsville” closes out the album with an ominous warning of the consequences of our wicked ways. The track opens with late 80s-sounding techno synths and a strummed guitar as RR cautions: “It’s getting hotter and they say we’re gonna fry. The ice is melting, polar bears are gonna die. Spilling blood for oil, it makes me want to cry.”  The guitars, bass and drums intensify to become a tumultuous onslaught, driving home the seriousness of the subject matter. RR wails “Welcome stranger, take a seat and say a prayer. There’s nothing else to do in Armageddonsville.”

Tales From Armageddonsville is a fine work, and succeeds quite nicely as a concept album that speaks to a number of thorny issues currently facing Western societies. The songwriting, lyrics, instrumentation and arrangements are all exceptional, and I enjoyed this album immensely.

To learn more about Revolution Rabbit Deluxe check out their Website and follow them on Facebook & Twitter
Stream on Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes