Review Summary: Hit me baby, one more time.
Choices, choices. You can either choose some hilariously obvious act, usually metal, who plies its’ trade in the form of gruesome murder descriptions, or you can choose some woefully misguided attempt at humorous music that generally equates to little more than dick jokes, dicking jokes, and jokes about famous celebrities who are dicks. Or, there’s always Polkadot Cadaver. I mean, they’re not particularly violent, but they’re about as subtle as a punch to the face from Kimbo Slice. And they are funny, but it’s not the traditional funny. In the aftermath of some horrendously brutal murder, I always imagine the perpetrator, provided they’re not plagued with regret, would gaze down at their handiwork and laugh. Laugh hysterically as they wipe the blood off their fingers and onto their eyelids. Shriek in uncontrollable fits of elation as they lick the edge of the blade. Yeah, it’s that kind of funny; in a black, gloriously twisted way. Like if the Marquis De Sade wrote the script for The Naked Gun. Formed from the stylistically similar act Dog Fashion Disco, Polkodot Cadaver, an equally manic counterpart fronted by vocalist and outstanding musician Todd Smith, released their sophomore album in 2011.
Polkadot Cadaver is unique. Their musical style transcends genre and defies categorisation at every turn, one minute playing kitschy pop-rock, the next, an acoustic ballad. It’s a musical whirlwind, but regardless of this, the style is always meticulously consistent. The inherent humour is present on all the tracks, and the classic songwriting style that makes use of verse, chorus, and breakdown works in an intuitive, and almost gleefully reverential way. The only song to lack this manner of structure is the short album opener, ‘Opus Dei’, which is reminiscent of a track from the band’s previous release, ‘Chloroform Girl’. It runs just shy of a minute and uses a crisp acoustic guitar and a synthesiser mimicking a harpsichord in the background. This works tremendously well in building atmosphere when accompanied with lyrics that read, ‘If this is love I’m falling in, hold my head under the water...’. As soon as the final strain of the song has faded, the listener is immediately thrust into the chords of the heavily metal-influenced ‘Sea Grave’. Chanting interludes are utilized as is free-verse style shouting. There’s even a couple of melodic refrains throughout which features an acoustic guitar, drums and the earnest voice of Smith. The piece soon begins to take cues from stadium rock, and introduces a much more toe-tapping rhythm that leads into an excellent breakdown. ‘Mongaloid’ similarly capitalizes on this metal style, but has a much faster tempo and far more provocative subject matter at its’ slow-beating, diseased heart.
‘Starlight Requiem’ and ‘Stronger Than Weak’ are probably the songs that take the heaviest cues from rock; The first is a perfectly irreverent religious satire that captures widespread attitude towards faith and faith culture into a succinct, eloquent package. A singalong chorus and lyrics such as, ‘My god is better than your god, therefore I’m better than you. My god is better than your god, let’s start a war!’ feel both level-headed and grimly ironic, as if all the knowledge necessary to form an opinion on the topic has been compressed into a four minute rock song. Likewise, ‘Stronger Than Weak’ is an enjoyably catchy tune that follows slow verses and a tuneful, heartfelt chorus. The juxtaposition of the music, particularly in the verses, and Smith’s voice work in a brilliantly contradictory manner, being both soothing and haunting. Title track ‘Sex Offender’ is a delightedly grotesque horror tale with an eerily convincing subtext. Smith’s performance is at its high point on this song, particularly during the chorus, which sounds like a love pop-rock song, but is loaded with irony and self-referential silliness.
Other songs ‘Slaughterhouse Striptease’ and single ‘Cake And Eat It Too’ are as elegantly penned as one can imagine, with the latter having a more disco-orientated sound in the form of clipped soundbites and tinkling bells. Before long, though, the guitars come in and the tone is changed to almost one of an inspirational power ballad. ‘Cake And Eat It Too’ has more religious overtones but a more restrained feel to it, using a clever chorus and bridge that work to create a more punk-influenced sound. It works admirably, and features enough varied instrumentation to count it as one of the album’s many high points. The crowning moment for Sex Offender
, though, has to be the exquisitely penned ‘Bloodsucker’. Quite possibly the coolest pop-rock song ever written, it’s a brilliantly self-aware and lucidly performed with the flair of an 80’s hair metal band. Using vampirism as a twisted metaphor, Smith declares during the chorus, ‘Suck you dry, we feed at night. Barely legal, I don’t mind, hit me baby one more time’. The cliché nature of the sound becomes almost vintage through the incredibly innovative presentation, and the clever use of synth throughout is very well implemented, serving to make Smith’s rasping delivery of ‘I have come to suck you dry’ sound that much more troubling, and yet, funny.
Polkadot Cadaver have subverted formulaic songwriting yet again with their second release, which is especially impressive since the majority of songs conform to traditional structure. Eclipsing previous release Purgatory Dance Party
, Sex Offender
is self-indulgently warped but also so intentionally off-kilter it runs the risk of not being taken seriously. That’s fine though, because it’s not supposed to be taken seriously. As provocative as the subject matter may be, and as offensive as the presentation may be, it’s always charmingly tongue in cheek, and affects an innocent exterior, revealing flashes of beauty throughout an album that oozes filth. Nonetheless, it manages to also make some very pressing, relevant points in an understatedly intelligent way (it probably wouldn’t be a wise course of action to refer to any material from this release whilst debating the ethics of religion, murder, sex crimes etc. though). It’s usually very difficult to empathize with the antagonist of a story, but Smith not only asks us to do this, but insists we tread into his blood-stained, steel toed boots and walk in his footsteps, and with a journey ahead as perversely beautiful as this, who am I to decline?