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Condor Moments » PopMatters

Condor Moments

We’re Not Happy ‘Til You’re Not Happy

PopMatters

February 8th, 2008 by RichyMidnight

by Jennifer Kelly

8/2/2008

Baroque orchestral music terrorism that recalls all the oddballs — Zappa, Beefheart, Akron/Family, the Residents, Sun City Girls, Man Man, the Art Bears — without really sounding like any of them.
About a minute into mad, over-the-top “Butlins’ Rash”, as campfire folk choruses melt into a synthetic Euro groovy beat, there’s a pause in the action, and an identified voice observes, “I’ve never seen anybody gut a fish like that before.” A lounge-lizardy other (you can practically hear the polyester shirt and mustache) replies, “I guess you haven’t seen much, baby.” Well, hold on, because by the end of this record, you will have seen, or at least heard, plenty. And Though We’re Told is an overstuffed frenzy of an orchestral freak-out, switching moods and time signatures and instrumentations on the drop of a dime, stitching whacko, murmured choruses about ginger beer onto giant prog-rock-from-the-1970 guitar riffs. There are manic, sing-alongs, wicked Weimar piano riffs, jazzy fusion-ish guitar improvisations, glockenspiel plinks and ironic trills of baritone. “Liquorice Fish Dish” could easily be a Man Man tune, with its testosterone chants and banging piano. “Counterpoint Study” pits a mad man’s mutter over sweeping, sky-high sung choruses. Closer “(I Hope) Raymond (Is Still Alive)” somehow brings everything home safe, the folk musings, the proggy interludes, the weird samples, the quicksilver changes in mood and tempo. I have no idea—none—what the album is about, but it is never boring.