Megapuss | Surfing (Vapor)

cd_megapuss.jpgThe songs range from the type of lackluster filler I’d love to see Devendra Banhart get away from, to borderline Wesley Willis-type streams of obscenity.

 

 

As he’s grown more and more popular, Devendra Banhart has gotten involved in more and more things aside from just his regular band—he’s appeared on Vashti Bunyan’s excellent Lookaftering, and Vetiver’s also-excellent To Find Me Gone, most notably, but also a smattering of other records. However, never before Megapuss, a new band he’s formed with Greg Rogove of Priestbird/Tarantula A.D., has he actually formed another band than his own, although listening to Megapuss’ first album, Surfing, you might wonder if he put more effort into his guest spots than he did on this album.

The press notes for Surfing proudly state that it was recorded and produced by Rogove and Banhart themselves, almost always using the first take. Under these circumstances the album sounds pretty good, and its level of polish is fine, but it’s really the songs themselves that are lacking. Were they written without practice or revisions? Were they unused b-sides from Banhart or Rogove’s back catalogues?

The songs range from the type of lackluster filler I’d love to see Banhart get away from, like "Lover" or "Shabop Shalom" from his most recent solo record, Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon, to borderline Wesley Willis-type streams of obscenity. When Megapuss gets into the former (such as they do with about 85 percent of the album, including their first single, "Adam & Steve"), the music is tuneoutable at best and irritating at worst (like the terminally unpleasant "Duck People Duck Man"). The obscenity-laced style brings one of the album’s high points, "A Gun on His Hip and a Rose on His Chest," which basically repeats the line "Fuck _________/ in the asshole" over and over, with the blank being things like "the president" or "the government" or "the police." At one point, they sing, "Fuck Abe Lincoln/ No, just kidding," which provides one of the album’s funnier moments. And aside from how funny I think cuss words are, the song’s actually catchy, which is more than can be said about almost all of the rest of the album.

The only song that seems like it could rise above the mediocrity and novelty the record gets mired in is the very catchy "Theme from Hollywood," which they got help from The Strokes’ Fabrizio Moretti on, but even it feels done before; catchy, but nothing too special. Maybe the only real reason for anyone aside from Banhart completists (a group I no doubt belong to) to buy Surfing is for those who think Banhart’s hot, as you can almost kind-of see his weiner in the liner notes. Awesome. C- | Pete Timmermann

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