I was expecting Dino Felipe's release on the No Fun label to be a squeal-glitch-thump-skree noise bomb, something like Shaggy Black, the excellent Dino Felipe & Nick Forte release on Soft Abuse in 2005 (which still gets rotation on my deck). After all, Carlos Giffoni, helmsman of No Fun -- both the label and the annual noise festival, largest of its kind in the U.S. -- has cultivated pretty much only harsh and chaotic nihilism. But with the presence of a cover of Haunted House’s “Chandeliers,” I had a clue that No Fun Demo would be somehow to the contrary.
"Stuck on You" enters with a lo-fi pop sound that made me think I had accidentally popped in an Ariel Pink CD. Guitar strumming and some muffled vocals singing “Girl I’m stuck on you man/ The whole day through/ I’ve been living in those years/ That much I could do” left me puzzled. I was pleasantly surprised to find that No Fun Demo is, in fact, a disc of excellently executed pop-like songs. It is apparent that Felipe had been assembling a collection of his own little ditties between 2001 and 2007 amidst consistent forays into noise.
This is not some slick George Michael shit. The vocals are covered in fuzz and slime, and are barely discernible, recalling the songs of Extreme Animals or Mike Watton’s first record. The chords and beats are hardly clean and were likely produced with some of the same haggard, abused equipment that would lend Felipe's other releases their static-drenched, netherworldly quality. However, these are truly songs, albeit with off-kilter vocal harmonies, ragged drum machines, and twists and turns that paddle around like moles on linoleum.
"Working on Not" scoots in with a drum machine rhythm and little beeps and squeaks that echo Devo, yet with scattered vocal murmurings á la Suicide and a Spectre-like harmony. “Rockin the Ark” starts similarly, but substitutes the beeps and boops with a distorted My First Guitar sound. Then there's the almost incomprehensible, yet totally pleasing, busted calliope feel of “Found 2 Photos”; the watery folk of “Willow Waly”; and “What’s Wrong With Me,” with its proto-disco-rap that sits drunkenly in its own simplicity.
There is an awkwardness and an unrefined quality to the production and delivery that keep this release on the margins of pop proper, but it's still a far cry from Religious Knives or Enema Syringe, two other bands with recent No Fun releases. Noise junkies should be ready for this. No Fun Demo has the same perverse charm as Ariel Pink’s stuff, and their similarities might detract from the ability of some to enjoy this release for what it is. However, this noisy pop — with its disregard for the greater pop world’s reliance on clarity and easily understood hooks — is as close to something fresh and original as you can find these days.