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German speedrockers Running Gag’s fifth release on Premio Records is a bit like smashing a radio like a piggy bank, letting all the different sounds and tempos and styles make a mess on your floor and instead of sweeping it up you dance on it. Since it is after all a Running Gag record there are more than a few very uptempo numbers (“Nice Hat,” “Slap Happy,” and “Bag O’ Joe“) but the overall vibe of Bedside Manor is one of “come on and shake that thang” (“Itchy Feet” indeed).
Granted, even a slow jam from these guys runs, sprints even, over 130bpm but that just makes it more welcome. The textures are as varied as the tempos this time around and songs like “Log Jam Sam” and “Out To Lunck” had me smiling to beat the band with their twisted melodies “sung” by guitar and synthesizer. Pianist Günther Engel’s trombone even makes an appearance here (on “Itchy Feet“), not heard since 2012’s Shiny Motorcycle.
Ditching the “go for croak” attitude of the first four Premio releases, Bedside Manor isn’t afraid to have some fun with its fury, and the album pulses and spins smoother for it. The stadium chunk of “Power Thong” starts things off with a bang, Greo Klein’s guitar shredding the techno mud of bassist Franz Richter and drummer Dirk König, whose syncopated interplay with the keys of Günther Engel make for a wild ride.
“Bog Ore” astounds with its six finger tapping technique by Richter on the Twig (a scaled down version of the famous Chapman Stick, designed by occultist Chris Tilbawl it can be amplified and used as a midi controller as well) while mates Klein and König slam the crisp, oddball riffs into place.
With no “damn singing this time” (as Richter put it in a recent Käse interview) the band is no longer tethered to any reality we’ve heard before and typical musical motifs like intros, outros, bridges and choruses go the way of the dodo, leaving the songs free to float and bounce wherever their inertia takes them. Longest track “Porkchops and Vaseline” stretches out with a hyper funk jamfest that burns into a groove metal junkyard before dropping the curtain, revealing a dixie barroom honkeytonk skeleton that grinds and scrapes as it segues into “Nice Hat.”
Once again produced by John Frum, the record sounds terrific, boasting a hugemongous bottom end with sparkling highs like those found in König’s fx cymbals or Klein’s delicate 12 string. The songs flow well also, making it hard to find a spot for a bathroom break!
Running Gag has figured out how to be both fast and not so fast and have fun doing it, unhampered by any ties to convention. It’s a step forward that most fans should embrace since it’s still the same band, just bigger! better! more! and has a greater replay value because of it.