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Weird War / King Kong | s/t / The Big Bang (Domino / Drag City)
WAR! Good God, y'all. What is it good for? Absolutely nothing. Well, not quite nothing. For once, we can wave the freak flags in favour, as any battalion that includes Ian Svenonius, Michelle Mae and Neil Michael Hagerty within its rank and file must be good news for the war against mediocrity. And if things get weird, out there in the zone? Hell, there are casualties in any conflict, and surely the current crop of garage rock charlatans are huddled in the first lines of cannon fodder. Weird War is an atomic powered phoenix rising from the twin funeral pyres of The Make-Up and Royal Trux, procurers of some of the most potent sounds from the contemporary R'NR apothecary. This is the kind of heady brew that the likes of the Seeds, Aerosmith and the Godfather of Soul used to serve up. Svenonius yelps that pleading yelp throughout, like a tomcat on heat, wrestling with the catchy-as-you-like 'Baby, it's the best' and getting down and dirty with the imploring "don't kiss me on the mouth/when you can kiss me anywhere else" ('Grass'). The eclectic instrumentation that one would expect of NMH features on 'Ibex club,' sounding like The Red Krayola leading the Mardi-Gras parade in New Orleans. That's really the only avant-rock moment: elsewhere, Hagerty's molten wah-wah guitar lines crank up the funk level. This combination of musicians sounds like they are having an absolute ball, rediscovering the joy of the records of their youth. Their hi-energy enthusiasm has seeped into the grooves, from the self -pitying teenage stomp of 'Pick up the phone and ball' to the 'Come Together' raunch of 'Burgers and Fries.' Weird War appeal to the permanent adolescent in all of us: the modern age may suck (listen to the lament of the album closer 'Man is Money'), but at least the soundtrack rocks.
Workaholic Neil Michael Hagerty acts as producer on King Kong's latest telegram from the outer limits. 'The Big Bang' harks back to the good old days of the concept album, but this isn't your Floyd territory. I don't imagine that 'The Dark Side of the Moon' would have sold quite as many copies if the main lyrical theme had been about the eventual reunion of the planets King (aka Earth) and Kong after a bloody intergalactic battle. Mind you, Yes did alright with the conceptually obtuse 'Topographic Oceans,' I suppose, so anything's possible... Hagerty adorns the proceedings with a crisp production, giving the deadpan stories of main-man Ethan Buckler (ex-Slint) the room to unfold. 'The Big Bang' sees a technological departure from the previous bluesy King Kong sound: indeed, 'Planet Kong on the Radar Screen' comes across like a lo-fi Steve Miller Band circa 'Macho City,' which is no bad thing. Undeniably, this is quirky stuff, but if artists like Bobby Conn are welcomed here with open arms, then I'm sure that King Kong could ape such success.

Simon Berkovitch
CWAS #11 - Autumn 2002