If probability is on your side, you're lucky enough to never experience the extreme highs and lows of manic depression, a mental disorder also known as bipolar disorder. But that doesn't mean you can't get a taste of that mind-bending, top-of-the-world feeling some psychiatric patients feel before they crash.
Using jagged rhythms, angular guitar melodies, dissonant-yet-funky basslines and a truckload of nervous energy, Kitty Rhombus explores what a manic episode bordering on psychosis might feel like in "Doug's Gone Manic," a track from the new album When the Walls Fell that the band is releasing next week.
And with vocals that summon a bit of early-'80s Talking Heads and anxious nods to other solid local bands such as Zebras and The No And Maybe Game, it's the kind of sonic roller coaster you'll want to ride until you barf.
There's a reason for this type of sound that extends beyond just sounding cool, according to the band: The song's an ode of sorts to a friend -- and unlikely muse -- of one of the band's guitarists, who had one very psychotic visit to Chile.
"The guy in the story I put together was no longer [my friend] Doug but a symbol for freedom met with violence," says Ian Stenlund, the guitar player in question. "The most disturbing part is when he's being beaten raw and oblivious to the pain stares up at his assaulter and laughs. Laughs in his face like, 'You can't hurt me, dude: You're the idiot.'"
Of course, plenty of non-Doug muses and influences have made their way into the song as well, including Star Trek: The Next Generation, the noisiest moments of Sonic Youth albums, and the innovative syncopation of King Crimson.
The result was a track that pushed the band into some exciting and unfamiliar territory.
"Most of our sound is pretty herky-jerky and often disjointed, but we just wanted to do something that made people want to dance and move around," says drummer Matt Styrwoll. "The tone of the song is so agitated and violent that you feel uncomfortable just sitting there."
Well, uncomfortable in a can't-take-your-eyes-off-a-car-crash kind of way. It's not exactly soothing, but it's demented, fascinating and pretty addictive -- even for the guys who play the tune over and over. "I often get it stuck in my head, and I like the idea of conveying somewhat deranged themes to listeners in slightly subversive ways," says Styrwoll. "The groove of this song was a fun way to sneak that concept in."
An MP3 of "Doug's Gone Manic" is available in the related downloads section at right. More music by Kitty Rhombus is available on its MySpace page. The band is throwing a CD release party with opening performances by Sonmi, Sylvia Beach, Suicide TXT, all emceed by comedian Chris Wealti, at the High Noon Saloon on Monday, August 24.
MadTracks highlights and provides MP3s of songs performed by local musicians. All tracks here are provided with permission of the artist. If you are a musician based in the Madison metro area and are interested in sharing your work as a MadTrack, please send a message.