⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ / ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Punk/math-rock band CHUMPANZEE has been making music since 2009 when lead singer Dutzy disbanded Willa Catheter, itself a popular act in the college towns of Southern California, and recruited bassist Pooch and drummer Krakow from their own jazz-prog group Zuvembie. Along with original guitarist Inkadink, Dutzy’s outfit both embraced the clammy underbelly of the airport rave scene and set it ablaze with high energy, time shifting riffs and an accessible sense of playfulness.
With each release, CHUMPANZEE has honed their sound, beefing up the already formidable hooks while expanding their sonic palette to incorporate the many disparate influences the band was, and still is, absorbing. Sophomore effort Skinny Bozo saw them utilizing Afro-Cuban rhythms, albeit in a decidedly Western way: by voicing the clave pattern with an alternating analog synthesizer and trumpet phrase, transposing every other measure like some demented arpeggiator. Snaking its way around this choppy rhythm were new guitarist Scrotch’s math-metal acrobatics and Dutzy’s, well, Dutzys.
Big, Slow and Delicious, the band’s previous record, introduced their fans to the latest wrinkle in CHUMP’s musical tapestry: the inclusion of traditional 20th century Irish pub singalongs with the usual Dutzy twist. Instead of actually singing the time-worn melodies, the vocalist employs an interesting “negative” or reverse technique wherein he sings the corresponding notes on the opposite end of the scale, like holding the score up to a mirror.
From the dizzying time changes of the opening track “Little Brown Lie” to the stoner sludge of “Mannish,” the listener is constantly reminded that on Medicine Hat CHUMPANZEE, and Dutzy in particular, are unconcerned with your expectations and, more importantly, are determined to not only break new ground but to possibly break your brain just a little in the process.
With lyrics drawing on everything from mysticism to primitive birth control (tansy, anyone?), Dutzy has never been more in his element than on “Buy You A Beard” (“I hope this doesn’t sound weird, but I’d like to buy you a beard”) and the ska/funk hybrid “Beef Tits,” where the singer manages to sneak in not one but two(!) references to the so called Voynich manuscript. No easy feat when your bandmates are laying down some of the most righteous grooves this side of N’Orleans, albeit at the frenetic pace typical of ska.
Scrotch asserts himself here on several tracks, including the surprisingly catchy “Gay At The Beach,” and although not one of his compositions, his playing is especially riveting in the 13 minute plus opus “Mamarazzi,” where his guitar synth both soars and crashes over and around the prog-jazz roots of Krakow and Pooch.
Speaking of the duo, their flights of fancy and breakneck mood changes make “Foreign Urine” a standout, while “Honest Injun” has a playful sense of the absurd excepting its exquisite extended guitar solo, certainly a highlight for Scrotch in this listener’s eyes (or is it ears?)
Medicine Hat comes highly recommended.