An incredibly inventive and eclectic due of Matt Deacon and Chris Jago, The Bob Lazar Story have been purveying their own unique blend of tritonal wankery since 2006, and this their latest magnum opus (that’s an Irish PI cat eating an ice cream to you and I) is now out on the Bad Elephant label.
Home to such instrumental wizards as The Fierce and the Dead and The Brackish, The Bob Lazar Story’s blend of prog, metal, fusion and huge dollops of humour fits right in with the labels ethos. Despite the fact that Matt is in New Zealand and Chris is in Los Angeles, the tightness of their playing, and the way they interact sonically with each other and the material makes it sound more like they recorded it together after a night rearranging all the genre sections in an HMV.
Frank Zappa once asked ‘does Humour belong in music?’ and I have had this debate with various people online and in the real world equivalent of Facebook (The pub!) and some po-faced Joe’s who think music should be serious and revered and played with a straight face disagreed mightily with me.
Whilst they have that opinion, they are, quite frankly wrong.
When you have the musical playfulness of ‘Baritonia’ bouncing out of the speakers at you, it’s clear that these guys know a) how to play and b) know how to play.
There is a lightness of touch and knowing wink in a lot of this album, and with titles like Toptop Switcherooney, Elbow Patch Man, In The Woods with Tony Iommi and Escape Tits it looks like that a) they revel in the absurd and b) have been reading Simon Godfrey’s twitter feed.
You can have fun in music, whilst still respecting the art form, and this is where the Bob Lazar Story’s strengths lie.
They jump gleefully from sound to sound, building some epic pieces, like the wonderful LOL, Defiantly with it’s classic synth sounds, or the aforementioned In The Woods with Tony Iommi, which is one of those walking holidays that could turn into either heaven or hell.
Mining their own rich seam of inventive, playful and joyous instrumental music, it’s hard for us reviewers to lump this into any genre because I think they’re a one band genre all by themselves, and as you listen to tracks like Make it Like It Used To Be the squelchy synths and rollicking riffs put a great big daft grin on your face.
Pop this into your ears and enjoy as another wonderfully exciting chapter in the Bob Lazar Story has just been written.
Does humour have a place in music? I don’t mean wry, observational humour but slapstick silliness and side splitting fun. Sarcasm and self-deprecation abound around The Bob Lazar Story. I haven’t heard anything as ‘out-there’ as this musical project since I listened to Cheeto’s Magazine’s bonkers and brilliant ‘Boiling Foils’.
Let’s face, who doesn’t need a bit of light-hearted fun and japery in their everyday lives, it can make the doldrums palatable and keep you smiling from ear to ear. Yes, I love my serious, well intended and deeply meaningful music as much as the next man but I love a bit of playfulness and flippancy too.
To give you some idea about the wisecracking lunacy of this project, here is an excerpt from the website biography:
“The Bob Lazar Story is the musical brainchild of Matt Deacon. Matt was born and raised in Liverpool, UK. Matt happened across an acoustic guitar in 1982 and played the shit out of it until he became perfectly mediocre. A few years later he had to decide between two possible futures :
1. A life of potential musical obscurity. 2. Becoming a top, top football legend.
Luckily for you, he opted for number 1.”
Matt moved to New Zealand in 1998 and taught guitar for a few years before getting a ‘real’ job. As technology advanced and became more affordable, the musician in Matt get sneaking out, culminating in his first, eponymous, release in 2004.
Matt changed his musical moniker to The Bob Lazar Story (that’s a question for another day)and the rest, as they say, is history. 2006 saw the first proper album entitled ‘(sic)’ followed by an E.P. ‘The Silence of Perez de Cuellar’.
A mad four year journey followed (which included a crazy year driving taxis back in Liverpool) and this culminated in Matt’s first collaborative effort with his erstwhile rhythmical genius, Chris Jago. 2014 saw the release of ‘Ghost Of Foodstool’, a fifteen minute epic that spawned popular hits such as ‘Threadkiller’ and ‘Funniest Cat Video Ever II’.
It was also the first release where Chris played on all tracks, leading to a more cohesive sound across all songs. Jump to mid 2015 and we see the recent release of Self-Loathing Joe, a twenty minute ride into the heart of The Bob Lazar Story.
Harmonics is 16 seconds of setting the scene, a gentle meander through a field of acoustics which then blazes straight into the angst driven madness of Don Branch Venom, a vicious guitar riff playing off with some whimsical keyboards that dance around like some maniacal jester. Like a 21st century tongue in mouth homage to Van Der Graaf Generator and King Crimson it has technical prowess and follows no set route, abstract and perplexing. The increasing fervor of the staccato riffs and keyboard melodies gives the music an incessant nagging nature that never lets you settle as it comes to a short, sharp close.
A terse drumbeat opens No Wait, Yes Chips before it wanders off, in a slightly surreal seventies American sit-com fashion, well, one that may have been directed by David Lynch that is. It’s like the X-Files met Saturday Night Live and had a musical baby that grew up on a diet of sugary sweets and late night TV. Slightly psychotic but thoroughly enjoyable and definitely a few sandwiches short of a picnic, it runs off into the dark, maniacally shouting and grinning. The segue into Title track Self-Loathing Joe is seamless and this trackadds a real jazzy edge to the lunacy that abounds all around you, the mellow keyboards and chilled guitar playing leave you slap bang in the middle of a wide open imagined space, a desert where the only sustenance is the uber-sharp music and highly charged crazed atmosphere.
Unhinged and unsettled are two words I could use to describe this album and that doesn’t change with Foodstool Exacts Revenge Upon Gilchrist the Traitor (the title is mad enough on its own!). Another schizophrenic, flippant trip into the depths of someone’s musical depravity on a superbly kitsch 70’s influenced keyboard and guitar melody and a rhythm section that is more chilled than the whole of L.A. The longest track on the album and by some margin, the most serious in nature (although that doesn’t say much when you’re talking about these guys) Ezekiel II begins with a mysterious and methodical beat, those familiar with the 80’s arcade game Spy Hunter will know exactly where I’m coming from. Like a sound track from a Tarantino film, it is edgy and dangerous yet stylishly so with a veneer of cool that only someone like Sinatra could exude. Again there is a strong 70’s vibe to the whole thing as it marches on relentless. A rather disturbing u-turn then follows, one which is actually quite creepy, as some rather pained voices shout out as if trapped in Dante’s musical inferno. Some crazed hushed whispering follows which is almost as creepy as a scene from 1970’s Dr. Who (the ‘hide behind the sofa’ kind) and the hairs are definitely raised. It is enjoyably unnerving though and then the music becomes the star of the show with a sustained organ like vibrato with a repeated note underlying until the guitar takes over in quite a sombre, mournful fashion. Quite possibly the most ‘normal’ and meaningful part of the whole record, it really does hit home and leave you in some sort of dark reverie, although hope and sanity are never too far away. Scinomrah is what they call the final 15 seconds and it closes out this most interesting E.P. in much the same way as the first track opened it.
Utterly captivating and totally bonkers, we should all have a listen to ‘Self-loathing Joe’ whenever we get above ourselves and our self-importance gets too big for its own boots. It will bring you back down to earth with an abrupt and exceedingly entertaining bump. Don’t take life too seriously, just enjoy it, I can tell that Matt, Chris and the rest of The Bob Lazar Story live life for today, their music proves it!