Review Summary: Estradasphere’s Quadropus has a really nifty album cover. Really, that little bugger looks like a mystical jade statuette from an Indiana Jones movie that the bad guys want for some arbitrary reason. I sure as hell know I’d want it.
I love Estradasphere. They are a band famous for experimenting by melding genres together in songs. On Quadropus, the idea is that they try their damnedest to keep the elements separate from one another, which is an experiment unto itself for the band. Can they unscramble an egg? Does the experiment work? Not as well as they hoped, really. See, by forcing each song to conform to one sound, Estradasphere makes each song try to stand on its own two legs. The problem is, the songs struggle to do this, some not even doing it at all.
The way the songs are made lends itself to a track by track review, so forgive if you don’t dig those. “Mekapses Yitonisa” is a traditional Eastern European piece. It’s a great way to kick off the album as the gypsy-like roots song is one of the strongest. It breaks a bit of new ground with dabbling in the genre, setting up the groundwork for parts of Palace of Mirrors. “Dubway” is an electronic experiment. Every part of the song is just vocal parts and beat-boxing basically, to combine to form some pretty cool, if not simplistic, work.
The next song is “King Krab Battle”, which is eight minutes of pure jazz. Estradasphere are great at jazz, which makes me miss John Whooley, the saxophonist that left the band after this album. Towards the end, it takes a bit more of a heavier turn, completing what sounds like a full-on jazz version of a boss battle fight from a video game. The track right after it, “Speck”, is a nice and easy pop song that actually has vocals. The keys play a big role, but there’s not much else to say about this one. It sort of just plods along, not with much purpose or anything, until it ends. In retrospect, it sounds very existentialist that the song just exists, so Estradasphere could be putting me on on a philosophical level. I doubt it though.
Fans of the massive “Hunger Strike” from Estradasphere’s debut album will enjoy “Hardball”. Why? Because they’re really similar songs. Picture them taking everything but the kitchen sink for an extended jazzy piece that allows each instrument its moment in the sun. Exactly like “Hunger Strike”. “Hardball”’s good, but a bit long for what it is, clocking in at thirteen minutes.
“A Car Ride in Idealistic Ethiopia” is a mouthful for an exotic sounding piece that comes straight out of a spy movie. Listeners of Palace of Mirrors will know of Estradasphere’s affinity for spy music, and this is a prehistoric precursor to that album. The song also follows the concept of changing radio stations and playing the same melody with different things, so a bit later, the jazzy elements are played up a bit more.
We still have four tracks left coming into the home stretch. First is “Crystal Blue”, surf-pop a la the Beach Boys or “Back in the USSR”. The “ooo’s” and “mmm’s” are nice touches, but it’s nothing more than a fun novelty. The next track after this is “Jungle Warfare”, which is just awful. Estradasphere has had a history of not being able to do metal, and this proves it. Terrible vocals, nothing interesting in the realm of music, I just skip this one most of the time. “Bodyslam” is in a similar vein, but done with a sense of humor. It’s a send-up of nu metal and the like with over the top guitar parts, wrestling screams, and clips of wrestlers from the WWF. It’s funny, and certainly a relief after “Jungle Warfare” but I’m not a big fan of their straight up “joke” songs, and that’s all that this is. Admittedly, it’s pretty good for what it is. The closer is “At Least We’d Have Today”, a parody of vapid love songs. It’s a few minutes long of banality and crooning falsettos, then it fades out. To complete the song, it later fades back in with the exact same music as before, except it has lyrics about minutia in the singer’s life instead of the love song lyrics.
In essence, Quadropus is a step back from Estradasphere’s previous efforts (Buck Fever and It’s Understood). Fans of the band craving more Estradasphere should turn here as their final foray. People interested in getting into the band should start with Palace of Mirrors or Buck Fever first. Consider Quadropus an Estradasphere b-sides album, if that helps, because it really feels like one. Taken for what it is, a curio, it’s above okay (and even has good points), but nothing of the exceptional caliber Estradasphere have proven they could write in the past.
Best few songs:
King Krab Battle
A Car Ride in Idealistic Ethiopia