Elephantbear, Hide And Go Seek
(Old Man Upstairs Records, CD)
You like chocolate, right? And, assuming you eat meat, you probably like bacon, too. Why not put them together? This unlikely pairing is actually the recipe for a bizarre gustatory delicacy known as Choinklate, a classic case of one-plus-one equals three. The sum being greater than its parts is the basic premise on which many a genre-bending musical act crafts its sound — if you play funk and you like jazz, why not start a jazz-funk fusion band? Keeping with the theme, it would seem that Plattsburgh / Burlington outfit elephantbear are something of a musical Choinklate: sugary sweet party-rock on the outside, and salty, crispy jam-rock on the inside. Citing influences from Phish (shocker!) to The Meters, Miles Davis and The Foo Fighters, the band certainly dials in an eclectic mix on its debut album, Hide and Go Seek.
Album opener, “Eternally Incomplete,” a Sea and Cake-esque number, sets a quick tempo. The song abruptly switches gears to a catchy bit about unrequited love. Front man Mike Pedersen has a nice voice and, while songs about love are seldom novel, his lyrics are clever and funny without sounding forced.
“Between the Lines,” a subdued track about love in passing, sounds like an organic version of German rockers The Notwist, with semiotic minimalist strumming and low-key drums.
The disc’s surprising highlight is “Make You Say Wow,” a playful, blues-joint jam. If this wasn’t an impromptu session filler, then the band has me fooled. Lyrically, there’s not much here beyond the title, repeated over and over again. I wonder which came first, the title or the song or . . . whatever.
Displaying ambition I’d usually shun like brother Hezekiah who broke the Ordnung, elephantbear have included “Ghetto Barbie” and a clean-edit counterpart. It’s a move that screams, “Play us on the radio. Please!” But I have to admit, the song is funky and catchy as hell. Having listened to the album nearly 30 times this past week, the double dose of “Ghetto Barbie” is wreaking havoc on my mental faculties.
With crystal-clear production, the tune may sound radio-ready. But that doesn’t mean radio is ready for this. I guess when you layer chocolate on bacon, you can’t expect everyone to love it. But that shouldn’t stop you from selling it.
Elephantbear plays Nectar’s every Monday in April.