⭐ ⭐ ⭐ / ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
The dreadful deadpan baritone of frontman Upstardo Bivalve resonates in everything Velvet Puppy does but especially in the bad trip territory mined on Moustache Flood, the band’s sunbaked soundscapes as twisted as ever. The cyberpunk three penny opera given a dose of nervous energy by a new drummer, Bivalve gets to stretch out here, inhabiting places both urbane and squalid with his boozy croon. Drums shatter and crash while bulldozer bass lumbers with fixed intent: this disjointed junkfunk may be music to get committed by (love that “sanitarium sound”) but it’s also irresistible punk rock if punk rock were actually made by a band of human/musical instrument hybrid creatures like a synthman or a mandrum. This “biopunk” rock cannot be described in words. It must be heard to be understood. Heard loudly.
But since this is a written review here goes: it’s out of control but you can dance to it and it’s a racket but it’s really catchy too; it’s an automated junkyard that some lunatic fine-tuned to make techno rhythms but now it has a mind of its own. And it’s tripping on acid. Or maybe they have some program that decides what random noise will sound good with other random noises. Maybe they’re just geniuses.
Drummer B. Tis plays like a nerdy drum machine, all herky jerk grooves that swing and swang but all the while something’s not right. It’s in D. Toone’s guitars, and how they’re sometimes quiet when they should be loud and vice versa, or how their syncopated stumble works when it shouldn’t. The bass of Loby growls and stomps or it slides and rumbles, either too greasy or too big for its own good. But just try to keep your toe from tapping.
Huge, tumbling bass lines that happily rebound keep “Prozac Chic” afloat after the sewage mud of “Sourpuss” threatened to buzzsaw itself into an early grave. “Hands Behind My Back” gets its clomp on with screaming vocals over a pristine pounding bass’n’drum that sounds like it’s wound way too tight; the Mona Lisa at double speed. A jumble of machine shop jungle beats, slashing and weeping guitars, sputtering and burning synthesizers and Bivalve’s shrieking serenade, Moustache Flood opens with a surefire contender for last song you would want played during dental work, “Fishteeth,” and not just because of the name. It’s a hyper-twitcher’s best friend, speeding along with a smooth clatter that’s both clunky and syncopated funky, filled with liquid fire guitar lines and broken down basslines.
The mood changes are truly band efforts, with each player game for any feel no matter how disparate, often shockingly so. Although “Captain Douchebag” sounds like it might be a good time, it’s an all out aural assault with rabid guitars, screaming keys and fractured drums stuttering over tremendous looping bass guitar grooves. Bivalve employs many vocal arrangements with the band and a distorted “pre-echo” backing voice gives a spectral crackle to his words in “Try A Little Pendergrass.”
The album closes with the old Fartbag classic “Guess I’ll Run For Mayor,” giving it the broken amusement park ride it always needed before finally spinning off the rails into a blistering crash of neon and shattered funhouse mirrors. Producing themselves this time out, Velvet Puppy has perfected their calculated trainwreck style, hammering out earworm horrors and dishing up bad vibes.
Bivalve and the boys broke onto the scene with 2012’s Trista and its otherworldly palettes, mixing dry and processed rhythms and vocals with clean and distorted oddball instruments to give us songs like “Barrel Of Monks” and “Smells Like My Yard,” both of which became remixed altdance hits. The band never seems to sit still for long, mixing things up for each release including who plays what and just exactly what that what is.
Known for their willingness to utilize unique instrumentation, each Puppy record is its own collection of creaks and groans, incorporating antique musical contraptions both familiar and mysterious (what is a “dorophone,” anyway?), pairing them with the multitudes of ooak machines the band collects and or modifies. Toone has publicly thanked the band’s fans for their donations, post-show parking lots often becoming showcases for sometimes hundreds of demonstrations by enterprising fans, enough to fill the two huge trailers the band employs. Anything from handmade guitars and synthesizers to hammered brass bazubas and semi-autonomous tone generators make their way onto a Puppy album, but at their core each release is a gothic sideshow of oddities and deformities that both delight and disgust.
The band has no imitators or even peers really, and Moustache Flood is as unique as its progenitors.