Black Pus 4: All Aboard the Magic Pus
Styles: jigsaw puzzle on steroids
Others: Lightning Bolt, Mindflayer, Sun Ra
Although they've always sounded bigger than life, Lightning Bolt's success has never hinged on their ability to be encompassing. Theirs is a music that's uncontrollably focused and confusingly sensible -- the trajectory and splatter of a paint ball enmeshed together in one holy moment, a sasquatch rationalizing quantum theory through cartoon, Cap'n Crunch using a technicolor telescope to uncover syntactic relations. Black Pus, the solo project of Lightning Bolt drummer Brian Chippendale, follows in similar spirit -- that is, its frenzy is its discipline. Never one to shy away from frantically chiseling out the physicality of music, Chippendale's aesthetic is characterized by an explosive intuitiveness rarely witnessed in the dingier, noisier realms of the underground.
With the first three self-released Black Pus albums, what's apparent is that movement is of utmost importance. The brief melodies on these releases sound more like touchstones that Chippendale would then either augment to the point of surrealism or deconstruct into abstraction, all while retaining an unhinged momentum. But on Black Pus 4: All Aboard the Magic Pus, the movements are tempered by an increasing emphasis on melody, his defining aesthetic now playing second fiddle to more "conventional" structuring devices. Chippendale is that much closer to striking the pop beast in the eye. This is something I usually lament -- I didn't like the album as much on the first few spins -- but for an artist who could easily thrive on density and stamina alone, branching more boldly into melody actually sounds risky within this context.
The musical cast consists of Chippendale's alter egos, such as Hundred Arms (drums), Prince Prance (keyboards), Inspector Bass (vocals), and Yabo Jagiamo ("other stuff"), extending the fantasy world in which Chippendale indulges in his comics, like "Ninja" (which saw release as a beautiful hardcover graphic novel) and one-offs like "If ’n Oof." In fact, it's nearly impossible for me to hear songs like "Juggernaut" without envisioning some comic book heroine on her way to defeat a three-headed monster, or "Pagan 4 President" without thinking of an all-out sex war between gummi bears and pop iconography. It's all very colorful and spastic -- neon pinks battling pastel blues, cut-up, glued together, awkwardly juxtaposed, and animated GIF-style. Lyrically, Chippendale explores topics from consumerism ("My House Is A Mouse") and Marvel comics ("Juggernaut") to arms dealers ("Kharma Burn") and affluent America ("The Wise Toad"), ending with a somewhat cathartic tune, "Body on the Tide," an apocalyptic ballad that plays like a slow-motion pop-punk song dragged through mud.
What All Aboard the Magic Pus signals isn't Chippendale's mastery of melody in what would otherwise be relative chaos. Instead, it signals the impulse of one serious, no-shits-about-it artist, one who's still taking chances with his music, whose visceral force is felt with every bass drum kick, whose art is as vivid as his music projects, whose emphatic celebration of all things creative is not only admirable, but contagious. It's an impulse that beats louder than most of the wham, bam, thank-you-ma'ams of the musical world, with even its reverberations devouring the majority of forms and smothering them with lollipops and political critiques. Creativity is flooding out of Chippendale's nostrils, and we should count ourselves lucky to be the tissue paper, soaking this shit up.
2. Land of the Lost
3. My House Is A Mouse
5. Kharma Burn
6. The Wise Toad
7. Pagan 4 President
8. Body on the Tide