Experimental Dental School Hideous Dance Attack!!!

[The Company With The Golden Arm; 2004]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: art punk, cabaret, spazz, retro, prog
Others: Mr. Bungle, Clinic, Park Attack, Deerhoof + DNA

"Polka, polka, polka, polka, polka in your eye!/ Polka, polka, polka, polka, polka pumpkin pie!" I was 16, standing in line at a haunted house. Near the entrance, a small band had situated themselves, pissing us off with this grating polka-punk hybrid. I never imagined that these lyrics would stay with me for so long. "Polka to the east!/ Polka to the west!" I certainly didn't think I'd ever invoke them in a review of an album I actually like. But here they are, summoned from the recesses of my memory by Experimental Dental School.

Integral to this comparison is the haunted house, reflected in the jovially macabre thread that runs through Hideous Dance Attack!!! The centerpiece is an electric organ, alternately cast as drunken calliope and as quivering, ominous presence. The overall sound is spacious, with plenty of breathing room between the organ, guitar, and vocals, all of which are squelched into a flat, brittle din. A seedy, medium-fi approach approximates the feel of a live recording as you watch them thrash around, kick their amps, and mouth the microphone inappropriately. I've never seen them perform, but I'd be outraged if they weren't in full costume and bathed in red light.

Now, with a straight face: the album opens with a neighing horse. The songs are knotty, polka-infused carnival jaunts that seek out a resting state of 3/4. The final track is framed around "Hava Nagila." Naturally. So are they being ironic, or are they just terribly misguided? Surprisingly, neither, although they're not exactly being earnest. At some point they just decided that playing horse noises while they bang on their organ and abuse their whammy bar kind of kicks ass. They were right, but it's more than just successful gimmickry. There are enough violent mood swings and spliced meters to keep you engaged well after the initial novelty has worn off. And even though some raw, elusive element of their live act feels absent here, it still kind of kicks ass.

1. Taco Chakra
2. KKKFC Serves Sparkily Squirl Meat
3. The Deer Love Heavy Metal
4. She's My Ike
5. Hideous Dance Attack
6. Mayonaize Volcano, Ketchup Cave
7. Some 4
8. Meyowch
9. Knife Thrower's Intern
10. Casino El Rio
11. Tractor Loves to Shuck Some Cows