Review Summary: A solid marriage of tongue-in-cheek humor and serious song-writing.
In 1986, Frank Zappa released a live album entitled Does Humor Belong in Music?. Those familiar with Zappa's career will recognize that his question was more rhetorical than inquisitive, especially given his huge, facetious compendium--albeit it still serves as prime debate fodder. It is not at all uncommon for artists, corporations, and (perhaps most especially) internet music journalists, to take their chosen area of study excessively seriously. Lost between the ostensible austerity of the haughty classically-trained musician and the smug elitism of some nameless 19-year-old "neckbeard" with a 30,000 song database, is the fact that music, broken down to its most pure form, is meant to be experienced as some form of enjoyment.
Those who are familiar with Dog Fashion Disco are certainly aware of the tongue-in-cheek manner Todd Smith and company compose their music. Though firmly rooted in metal, Dog Fashion Disco was a potluck of funk, film-noir, and jazz, with darkly comedic lyrics. Contrary to being dismissed as a gimmicky comedy act, DFD managed to intersperse their very clear inanity amidst very cohesive and eclectic songwriting. Polkadot Cadaver are the reanimated corpse that arose from the ashes of Dog Fashion Disco, swapping the bouts of jazz for a smattering of electronics. If it isn't apparent from the title of their third major release (or even their band name), Polkadot Cadaver convert pretension into full-on flippancy, and it produces some profoundly unsubtle lyrics which include (but are not limited to) sexual deviancy, religious bigotry, and mutilation. Though certainly a personality-enhancer and detractor, the band's lyrical frivolity has never been their focal point, and despite a few dark subject matters, Last Call in Jonestown is easily their most topically mature album to date.
Musically, Last Call in Jonestown shows an incredible range of influences. Tracks such as "All the King's Men," and the title-track are blistering thrashers, while "Painkiller" and "Lunatic" opt for a more subdued, dubstep-driven beat coupled with infectious hard-rock choruses. Several tracks make use of progressions which are mostly commonly attributed to circus music and combine them with goofy sound-effects to give the album a very humorously macabre tone. The album's most successful tracks are the ones that most seamlessly combine these uncommon pairs, such as the massive "Touch You Like Caligula" and the psychedelic and electronic marriage in "Phantasmagoria". Each of the album's twelve tracks, save for the all-too-brief closer, are intensely entertaining for the amount of seemingly unlike genres the band are able to merge without sounding forced.
At a very manageable forty-eight minutes, Last Call in Jonestown is lengthy enough to make an impression without relying on an over-utilization of experimental tropes. Last Call in Jonestown can be analyzed for its caustic wit and schizoid genre-hopping, but its tone and metal aesthetic make it very easy to be enjoyed when blasted at maximum volume. You can't really ask for anything more than mindless enjoyment from an effective metal album, but Polkadot Cadaver go beyond it for one of 2013's metal highlights.