Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Thrift Store Mystery CD Review: Leather Hyman, "Host Body"

                I know, I know, I said the next thing I was going to post would be the first episode of my highly-anticipated (HA!) serial story.  But I’m afraid I must brave the inevitable angry outcry (HA!  HA!) because It’s got to be pushed back a little bit for the sake of beautiful illustrations.  I am, for some reason, okay with this.  Anyway…

                A while before I started writing things for this small slice of internet, I thought it might be fun to have a music blog.  I would review CDs and live shows of local bands and new artists and people could read it and be uplifted and it would all just be awesome.  The main reason I didn’t do this is because I don’t often have time or money to go see local shows, and I lack the self-esteem to think that anybody would care about my opinions on music (especially since ninety percent of the people I know hate almost everything I regularly listen to).  However, I think I’ve found a solution; thrift store CD racks!  

                Thrift store CD racks are places of endless discovery.  Even if the actual stock of CDs is limited, the fact that it’s all based on people’s donations means the selection is always surprisingly diverse (with the exception of the fifty or so Christmas albums you’ll have to paw through year-round).  If you go looking for something specific you will almost always be disappointed, so it forces you to keep an open mind.  There is an element of risk since there is no way to listen to any of it until you bring it home, so if you find something you don’t recognize there is a very real risk that you’ll hate it, but it’s such a small investment that it’s still worth it.  Some of my absolute favorite albums of all time were ones that I picked up at the thrift store and thought "This looks interesting." 
                So without further ado, I present to you my first Thrift Store Mystery CD Review!  I’ve got a whole pile of these things that I never got around to listening to, so this will be the first of many.

Mystery CD: “Host Body” by Leather Hyman
Found at: Savers
Price: $1.98
First impression:
                I’d only been to Savers once before, a few years back when Jess and I were looking for Halloween costumes.  When we went again a few days ago, I saw the CD rack for the first time and holy cats it was enormous.  I don’t think I ever ended up getting through the whole thing.  This was the first CD I found, it was up near the top.  The thing that caught my eye was the group’s name on the spine of the CD.  “They misspelled ‘hymen,’” I thought to myself.  (I found out later that it was actually a pun on the fouders' names, Heather Lockie and Lyman Chaffe)  Out of curiosity I pulled it off the shelf and this dismal fellow met my eyes.

                One of the games I play with myself at thrift store CD racks is a little one I like to call “Guess the Genre.”  Usually it boils down to me trying to identify a new metal band based solely on the packaging.  I’ve been horribly wrong before (if you ever see a CD with cool, innovative art by a group called “Enigma,” DO NOT BUY IT FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY), but lately I’ve gotten pretty good at it.  At first I thought this one might be from some sort of metal group until I turned it over and saw a half-nude woman breastfeeding a giant beetle. 

                Then I looked at the track list.  Of course I recognized none of the songs except for Track 12, which is apparently a cover of Lou Reed’s “All Tomorrow’s Parties.”  Usually I hate Lou Reed, but Rasputina did a cover of this song which I think is phenomenal.  I think it’s safe to say that the inclusion of that cover is the main reason I bought the CD.

                I’d hazard a guess that it’s genre is darkwave, but since they’re covering Lou Reed and the band photo consists of four people clothed in nothing but aluminum foil…  Well, let’s find out!

1: Million Dollar World.
                Right out of the gate, I’m surprised.  This is incredibly peppy, kind of a standard rock song with effects-laden guitar solos.  I guess it’s just run-of-the-mill alternative rock, but my first impression is that they’re pretty good.  They’re definitely capable musicians, the frontwoman’s got a good voice and the music’s fun to listen to. 

2: Away
                A little less peppy than the first track.  Not much to say about this one, but it still sounds good.  The melody’s a little weird, but maybe that’s just the warped effects on the guitars playing havoc with my ears.

3: Frank
                Here we go, this is a bit more what I expected.  Still rock and roll, but very gloomy and moody without being un-melodic.  I really dig this track, thus far I’d say it’s the best one.

4: Pussy
                The first verse references a cat, but I’d be optimistic to say that’s what the title’s referencing.
                *hears the second refrain*
                Yeah… definitely not about a cat.  The sneaky buggers left the refrain out of the lyrics in the liner notes, though so I can’t read it any slower and find out the entirety of what they’re saying (they sing it really fast).  There’s a male backing voice in this one and he’s got a strong, low voice.  There’s a lot of talk about the circle of life… things getting old and dying and getting eaten by other things which in turn die et cetera.  It all seems very graphic.  It’s really fast and hard, and a lot of fun to listen to.

5: Girlfriend
                Another darker track with a really driving melody and plucky guitars.  It seems to be about a bad relationship, she’s singing it to her boyfriend I think.  I’m a minute and a half in now and she’s said explicitly that she’s going to kill him with an extension cord.  A little after the two minute mark they introduce violins which adds a nice touch. 

6: Trunk
                Starts of with more violin, playing a nice melody over an ethnic-sounding beat, like something gypsies would dance to.  Really neat so far.
                Do you remember when you had no legs?  I liked you better then.
                It’s the guy singing again, and this is definitely a weird one.  I’d have to listen to it a few times to figure out all the metaphors going on here.  The way he sings this song kind of reminds me of that guy from The Tragically Hip, which is definitely a good thing. 

7: Steve McQueen
                Starts off with electric organ and a fast driving beat.  The only reason I know who Steve McQueen is if from hearing Eddie Izzard talking about the movie “The Great Escape,” and I think that’s what the third verse is about since they’re talking about him riding a motor cycle away from a Nazi POW camp.  I don’t know any of the other movies they reference here, except maybe The Blob.  Was Steve McQueen in The Blob?
                Not the best song on the CD.  It ends with a jam session that’s kind of cool, and it’s silly and fun, but it kind of lacks the depth that the other songs have had so far.

8: Great
                The beginning is psychedelic and creepy, which is weird because this seems to be the most cheerful song they’ve sung so far.  The melody gets a bit happier as they go, but it stays just as psychedelic.  This is the first song where they reference drugs which is a little surprising considering we’re well over halfway through the CD.  Not that I’m complaining, mind you.  I’m really enjoying this CD so far and I haven’t even gotten to the track I bought it for.

9: Rake
                The rake in the title is actually an ordinary garden rake.  I’m a little surprised. 
                This song has a really strong funk beat.  The melody is fun, a weird mix of upbeat and melancholy and the bass line is nothing short of impressive.  It switches back and forth from intense funk jam to elongated melodic chords really quickly and easily, and there’s another violin solo about halfway through.  This song must have been a whole lot of fun to play and I’m literally dancing as I write this. 

10: Scabs
                The liner notes are full of these electron microscope images of parasites, and I just noticed that they’re all numbered, and in the lower right hand corner all the numbers are labeled, telling you the name of each parasite.  I find this fascinating. 
                Anyway, this song’s pretty good.  The guy’s taken the lead vocals this time.  About a minute and forty into the song I think I heard the rhythm guitar play a sour note, but the song’s good enough that I can’t really bring myself to care.  It’s got a medium tempo with a nice chord progression and more psychedelic violin solos.  This is one of the good ones.

11: Ritalin
                Honestly, if Ritalin was music this is pretty much how I’d imagine it would sound.  It’s fast and haphazard and overly crazy, and the intro is just a little hard to listen to. 
                I just remembered that Ritalin is supposed to calm you down, so maybe that doesn’t make sense.  But then, I’ve always associated Ritalin with a kid I knew in elementary school who took it, and he was kinda hyperactive and crazy, so that’s probably why I have that impression.  Anyway, I’m only sort of half-listening to this one.  It’s not bad, but it’s not their best. 
                I hope I die when I get old.
                Don’t think that’s gonna be a problem, guys.

12: All Tomorrow’s Parties
                Here we are, the song I bought the CD for.  It’s a faithful cover, prettier than the original, but not as much as Rasputina’s version, and even though it’s faithful to the original it’s not a direct copy, they’ve definitely put their own unique spin on it.  It’s good, but it’s not the best thing I’ve ever heard, and I’d even dare to say it’s not my favorite song on the CD.  I think they overdid it a little.  It’s still a really good song, but I like Rasputina’s version better.

13: Host Body
                Now for the finale!
                They start it off with a heavy, down and dirty blues-rock riff and the guy comes in singing probably about as low as it is possible for him to do.  Singin’ all about parasites, though he’s calling them symbiotic so I’m not sure he knows what the word actually means.  Probably did it for the sake of irony.  Around three minutes or so the tempo picks up and he stops doing the Tay Zonday impression, then it ends kind of abruptly.  It’s sort of a letdown after the mind-bendingly awesome opening, very anti-climactic.  But that doesn’t change the fact that the first three minutes were mind-bendingly awesome. 

Overall Impression:

                I really like this CD.  I was a little worried when I picked it up, because I really couldn’t tell what it was and the last time I found something like that, Enigma happened.  But this was a pleasant surprise.  The band’s sound wasn’t at all what I expected, but they were still really good.  They’ve got clean vocals with thought-provoking lyrics paired up with psychedelic guitars and a pretty kickin’ violin player.  The instrumentation is tight, but not so much that it’s mechanical, and most of the songs are a lot of fun to listen to.  It might not be everybody’s cup of tea, but there are some pretty good tracks on here, and it was definitely worth the dollar ninety eight I paid for it.

I really wanted to wrap this up by embedding a youtube video of one of the songs, but I couldn't find any at all.  I couldn't even find a preview on Amazon which probably speaks to how rare this CD actually is.  Pity, really.  It is available on Amazon for kinda cheap, though, so if you ever feel like listening to some weird rock music, this is definitely for you.  I might end up uploading this CD to youtube just so the internet can know what it's missing.