March 1, 2008

CD Review: Polkadot Cadaver - Purgatory Dance Party

When I first began listening to Purgatory Dance Party, I could have sworn I had accidentally slipped in a Mr. Bungle CD. Yes, the Bungle and Mike Patton references are easy to make, and possibly a well overused way to describe the band or a feeble attempt by those not entrenched in this bizarro experimental genre. Perhaps that is true, but that makes the comparison no less appropriate. Seriously, can you honestly say that when you first heard "A Wolf in Jesus Skin" you did not double check the liner notes, scouring all corners for a mention of Mike Patton's name? I know I did.

Polkadot Cadaver is, essentially, Dog Fashion Disco Part II. The latter band called it quits at the end of 2006, ending their career (as permanently as anything can be in this industry) with the excellent Adultery (which stands as the only Dog Fashion Disco album I've heard). Original Dog Fashion member's singer Todd Smith and drummer John Ensminger, along with more recent Dog Fashion member, guitarist Jasan Stepp formed Polkadot Cadaver. Together they hit the studio and churned out Purgatory Dance Party in a matter of mere months. Now, even if the album was awful (which I am not saying by a long shot), something has to be said for their penchant for creative band and album names.

After having listened to Purgatory Dance Party a few times, it reveals itself as an accessible experiment that fuses many familiar musical textures into a tapestry that is as welcoming as it is off putting. Bits of Faith No More, Mr. Bungle, Slayer, and Dog Fashion Disco, of course, weave themselves through the entirety making it accessible to a large group of people, while also forcing them to come face to face with a soul from the distinctly weird and slightly creepy school. They are like that weirdo outsider in school that you were friends with so you could play with the cool toys he had. That's Polkadot Cadaver, the weirdo at school who always had the cool toys, but was slightly scary at the same time. Don't believe me? Just listen to the interesting combinations of familiar sounds and then focus on the lyrics. You may be fascinated, even entranced by the music but if you happen to be in a dark alley with them, you would likely keep moving and stick to the lighted parts of the street.

Enough of my rambling, by now you probably get the picture that they are weird and creepy. I've said that already, right? Of course I have. Now what about the music?

The music will draw you in and hold you in its thrall. The arrangements are quirky, the combination of polka, jazz, rock, metal, and lush acoustic melodies all blend into a musical stew that is unlike anything you are likely to find on the radio. None of the members strike me as being virtuoso musicians; however, as we all know, it is not always how well you can play your instrument, but how well you collectively play your instruments together. This the kind of music where songwriting and instrument arranging is king, unlike a band like, say, Dream Theater where the virtuoso instrument performance is an integral part of what they are creating. Not every band is like that, and nor should they. Polkadot Cadaver excels at creating quirky music and focusing on their strengths. The end result is eminently listenable, catchy, and a worthy alternative to instrumental virtuosity.

Once you get past the music, I recommend that you give a slightly closer listen to the lyrics. The words will slowly, or quickly depending on which song you start with, reveal the creepy, dark, disturbing, and perverse side of the band. They fold sexual perversion, anti-religious sentiment, and murderous concepts ever so lovingly into their music. You may not notice at first, but once you do, you will either love them more, or be completely repulsed. I cannot say I agree with what they say, but their creativity knows no bounds and will likely prevent any type of mainstream acceptance, ever. That said, I will be there for any future work they put out.

Bottomline. If you like quirky music, darker themed lyrics, or are curious about music that isn't on the radio, seek out Polkadot Cadaver. The music is freaky, different, and uh, did I say quirky?

Highly Recommended.


Anonymous said...

Obviously you don't know Todd Smith. He is a Virtuoso. He can play any instrument he picks up and writes the MAJORITY of the music. He's a one man band.

Anonymous said...

A virtuoso (from Italian virtuoso, late Latin virtuosus, Latin virtus meaning: skill, manliness, excellence) is an individual who possesses outstanding technical ability at singing or playing a musical instrument = Todd Smith

Anonymous said...

All members in this band (and in DFD) are phenominal. A band I played in played with these guys and they are all down-to-earth, goofy musicians. Not the slightest bit creepy. I can't get enough of these guys or this album.

Post a Comment