For Madison band Baristacide, eccentricity is a near-religious habit.
Their mix of pop-punk, new wave and post-punk relies on twitchy rhythms and strained, panicked baritone vocals. The band members have pseudonyms like Educational Davis (vocals, guitar) and Poncho Pilot (guitar, vocals). Song titles on their new, self-titled album include "It Seems Your Head is Damaged" and "Ghoulie What Are You?"
Davis delivered the CD to Isthmus' office in a black box that also contained a can of PBR (warm), a container of acrylic paint (red), a makeup pencil (jet-black), a t-shirt for a New Berlin Lions Club corn roast (fragrant, yet clean). It's not clear if he intends to bribe me or if he's getting ahead on his holiday white-elephant gift exchanges.
So one would reasonably expect Baristacide's songs to slather on the oddness rather thickly. And they do, but the hooks keep things on track.
The song "Hot Pot Unbeliever" makes the same bet the great band Sparks did: that distractingly warped vocals and lyrics can be reconciled with catchy fundamentals.
It could be a song of young lovers running away, or just mindless teenage fratricide: "Don't you try to look so sad/Don't forget I killed your dad," Davis sings. And though the chorus begins with the title's seemingly nonsensical phrase, it ends up having a bit of humanity too, Davis singing "We'll survive the desert, yet" as the melody resolves.
Plus, the two verses have a parallel lyrical structure -- again, about running away from and/or killing dads -- proving that being infernally weird doesn't have to make your songwriting sloppy.
Keep scanning the song on the band's lyrics list and you'll eventually be greeted with the line "I can't believe you're still reading these lyrics." Nor can I, but Baristacide's balance of Devo goofiness and pop instincts is a pleasant surprise.
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