⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ / ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

When vocalist Hampton Chuggs sings “Sometimes it’s hard to look at you” in “Eight Million Eyes,” you’ll wonder who exactly he’s referring to: himself or the band’s more “productive” fans. Known to encourage bootlegging of their shows, LARDBONE has nevertheless been issuing a lot of take-down notices of late, especially to fansites claiming to feature video of the band live in concert.

It’s the latest step the members have taken in attempting to regain some control over their image, an image they feel has been slowly eroding ever since imitators began posting live videos purporting to be of the band, videos of decidedly inferior versions of their most popular songs.

With city teeth, Chuggs, Jango et al are touring showing off their fresh ink: one-of-a-kind body tattoos using cutting-edge digital pigments (hard to imitate) and newly upgraded stageshows featuring outlandish lighting and video screens displaying band-made short films of hardcore pornographic claymation (even harder to imitate).

All of this to distinguish the real LARDBONE from the fakers, presumably to drive traffic toward their own site (hardlard.com) but all it takes is one listen to city teeth to know that this is the real deal.

Right away, “Atomic Negro” sets a blistering pace, the uptempo blues-funk soaring with guitarist Jango’s greasy screeches over a stripped down backing groove and bouncy keys. Chuggs’ baritone rolls out his typical tongue twister lyrics with hyperactive dexterity, wrapping themselves in and around keyboardist Ernie’s maniacal melody lines.

Fancy Nancy” features some of the sweetest harmonizing the band has yet attempted, the lilting voice of thereminist Jane Tarzan wonderfully haunting. The complex four-part harmonies provide a refreshing contrast to the jangly, odd-time guitar and clavinet honk, while the bass and drums chug along spryly with toe-tapping solidity.

The album never bores as it shifts seamlessly from the hillbilly clomp of “Born Fat” to the six-minute-plus ragtime scorcher “Beatin’ The Dog” and its outstanding guitar and theremin counter-solos. Fans of earlier LARDBONE efforts like Cargo Cult and Biofeedbag will appreciate new tracks “Obama Yo Mama” with its stilted basslines and distorted vocal while “Red Velvet Jake” is the hardest rocker the band has done in years.

If there’s any tension from their image struggles it’s nowhere to be found, at least not in a detrimental way as the sheer variety of hummable tunes will impress. All the songs are memorable, stacked with melodies and excellent production making city teeth on the hole quite enjoyable. It’s a great document of a band that has nothing to prove because it has no contemporaries, but everything to gain by weeding out the riff raff. city teeth is LARDBONE. Period.

Unofficial sixth band member Carlos Vassal co writes three of the tracks with the above mentioned “Eight Million Eyes” and its prog-metal explorations a standout. Guest musicians Henry Jones of Slugfest and Warren Peace of Daddy’s Boots provide fine performances, and producer Steuben Kincaid keeps everything humming. Each tune is given a chance to establish itself and its own sonic treatment, be it a cozy speakeasy or a cavernous dance club, and the arrangements follow suit. Everything is balanced sonically, from clean and present to distorted and distant, with compositions both rigid and fluid, some even bordering on light improvisation. With players this good sometimes it’s hard to tell or even irrelevant, as is the case here.

Another excellent release from Chuggs and the gang.

Highly recommended.