OBLONG BOYS LIVE-from 2002

The air was thick with scenesters at Le Privelege as four bright colored Oblong Boys took to the stage, dressed to the eights in oddball cardboard hats and construction paper suits.  As they began to emit  the machinic sproings, boings, blips and bloops that are the trademark of the obscure “zolo” movement, the initial effect was more wacky high-school novelty band than arty futurism. Compared to today’s bass-heavy popular music, the utter orthagonality of their trebly high-frequency synths made the outfit even more unconventional than usual, even to a sympathetic audience.  It wasn’t electronic rock…and certainly not pop…so what was it? More weirdo than Devo, more spazz than new wave.  Soundtrack to clown school for insects.  By way of association, I remembered a commercial from the distant past with robotic fast-food employees warbling “Chickenburger round, fishburger square” over and over. Does that help?

After 10 or so very white minutes, bass notes that anchored the songs came through the oscillators and the four zoloids hit their stride: skronky sax, arty violin and zippy no-wave/disco beats.  A too-close-to-retro sensibility (for my tastes) was nicely subverted by unironic energetic creativity. Eyeballs grew big as cartoons and the singing got ever more frenetic, …but about what?  Sasquatch, apparently. Towards the end of the set the non-linear bug-out energies were getting intense, and there was no guarantee that if you let this music take over your life you might not be at home later pouring milk onto your alarm clock and brushing your teeth with mustard (and never be tempted to call the Red Hot Chili Peppers “alternative” again!)  When they blipped over to a cover of the Munster’s theme song, it sounded like analog androids studying hot-rod music.  Time to go, back to reality, where there is much more concrete than neon.

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