Review: Polkadot Cadaver – Last Call In Jonestown
THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED BY MUSIC NEWS.
For the last fifteen years, Baltimore based musician Todd Smith has been at the forefront of avant-garde metal, heading up genre-hopping, blackly comic behemoths Dog Fashion Disco between their ska-tinged 1997 debut, Erotic Massage, and their sublime 2006 film-noir inspired concept album finale, Adultery.
Since DFD folded, Smith has bounced across various projects, including acoustic-led solo work El-Creepo!, one-off band The Alter Boys, hardcore metal-heads Knives Out and one particular project – Polkadot Cadaver – which feels the most like a continuation of Dog Fashion Disco.
Together with regular collaborator Jasan Stepp, Polkadot Cadaver took the DFD template and cranked up the insanity that little bit higher. The riffs are more profound, the lyrics more tongue in cheek than ever, and no genre is safe from their assimilating minds.
Third album Last Call In Jonestown offers more of the same winning formula with has served Smith & Stepp well. Driven by new drummer Scott Radway, the album is a thundering, chaotic journey through discordant strings, chugging riffs and funky grooves.
The title track offers up an Eastern flavour to proceedings, as cut-up digital samples fuse with live instrumentation to create a visceral experience to complement the grisly tale which inspired its lyrics. Elsewhere, Sheer Madness offers pounding beats and daft lyrics about finding Jesus under the sink, and as the band let loose and have fun, the lyrical references to Queen show a clear influence from another band who didn’t really care what critics thought, so long as the audience applauded.
And it’s not hard to see why the band have a loyal following, when tracks like Animal Kingdom fuse this metal-drenched approach with bizarre side moments that almost sound like Elbow and the Pet Shop Boys are hooking up for a duet, only to be drowned out by Primus and System Of A Down jamming next door. And then there’s Impure Thoughts, which, with lyrics as sleasy as its title suggests, is exactly how we imagine Prince would sound if he embraced metal.
That’s not to say there aren’t a couple of mis-steps. Neil Fallon of Clutch guests on the track Transistors Of Mercy, but while he gets to bawl out gloriously silly lines like: “Protect us from the whim of the simian beast”, the track itself is a rare example of a Polkadot song out-staying its welcome.
It’s slower moments like this, and an earlier track, Touch You Like Caligula, which let the side down, slightly, and it takes the heavy bounce of songs like All The King’s Men and the Halloween-drenched camp of Phantasmagoria to make up for them. It’s not that the band cannot do slower, lighter songs – indeed, some of their finest material is along those lines – but this record feels like a direct hit to the chest, and these two tracks feel more like a prod than the punch the rest provides.
But these are minor blemishes from a band who will tackle any genre head-on, and make it their own. Long may they continue.
‘Last Call In Jonestown’ is out now. You can see the video for the title track below.