Review Summary: Polkadot Cadaver's second full-length album is a fun slice of avant-garde creepiness.
Avant-garde bands are always a strange lot to listen to with the genre jumping and confusion that has come to be associated with the movement. A few groups (most of them involving Mike Patton in some way, shape, or form) manage to stand out from the pack but most seem to be caught up in the classic traps of style over substance song structuring. Formed after the disbandment of the equally odd Dog Fashion Disco, Polkadot Cadaver is a particularly noteworthy group. This is their second album and is filled with as much comical creepiness as the name’s implications would suggest.
As expected by an avant-garde release, the influences and musical style that this album exhibits are all over the place. Metal, electronica, punk, funk, and even a bit of pop are the most prominent genres that are flirted with on here, though there are several others that can be picked up with repeated listens. The final product could best be described as having the feel of a “demented carnival” with its unwavering glee and manic style jumps. While Faith No More and Mr. Bungle are inevitably Polkadot Cadaver’s biggest influences and the easiest ones to compare them to, there are several other groups that come to mind when listening to this. Dream Theater, Pain of Salvation, Mastodon, and Muse are just a few, though I’m sure fans of this genre will pick out more.
Going off that, the band’s performance is also pretty noteworthy and goes through a lot of different aesthetics. The keyboards play a major role between the touches of piano and electronic flourishes though the guitars bring in a strong presence and the bass puts some solid funk influence into play. Of course, the vocals are what stand out the most. While they ultimately come off as a cross between Mike Patton and Matthew Bellamy, they show off a lot of character as they go between manic whispers, poppy croons, and rushed shouts.
But what really makes this album enjoyable is the songwriting. While many avant-garde bands seem to have a fetish for jumping from style to style without any sort of coherency, Polkadot Cadaver is quick to make sure their songs are memorable and baring a method to their madness. For starters, the choruses have an almost pop sensibility as every song on here has some kind of infectious hook going for it. This skill is best exemplified on “Starlight Requiem,” a song that may very well be the heaviest and most trying on here. While the transitions between shouted vocals and incessant keyboards to melodic instrument work may put some listeners off, those who stick around are sure to have the song stuck in their head for weeks.
There are plenty of other songs worth noting on the basis of their hooks. Tracks like “Cake And Eat It Too” and the title track offer fast-paced choruses with some poppy vocal layering, while “Blood Sucker” shows off a more drawn out refrain that goes along with its more theatrical nature. “Sea Grave” is also a memorable track though it is based more on Mastodon-esque guitar bombarding than any overt catchiness.
The lyrics also add to the atmosphere and seem to fluctuate between nonsensical ramblings and the hypothetical samples of a serial killer’s diary. There is also something of a satirical bent to be noted as “Blood Sucker” takes many a potshot at the modern day vampire craze and “Starlight Requiem” may or may not be a jab at the wars in the Middle East.
As someone who rarely ventures into this genre, I find Polkadot Cadaver’s second effort to be a most entertaining one. The broad range of stylistic jumps gives the group a chance to reach out to various audiences while their songwriting skills will help the band keep them. Of course, it’s a little hard to tell where this album fits into the overall Dog Fashion Disco/Polkadot Cadaver discography. At any rate, it is enough to make one want to explore their back catalogue further. Just don’t be too surprised when you start screaming the lyrics of “Starlight Requiem” at random people…
“Cake And Eat It Too”
Originally published at http://suite101.com