If you were to put a bumblebee in a jar and shake it, Colonial Excess' new album Short Hair Extender for Hail Damaged Cattle (self-released, October 2004) would be the music playing inside the bee's head.
Manic, comatose, blaring, smooth, breakneck, idle -- all can be expected from a Colonial Excess song (sometimes all at once). Naming the band's influences would take more space than this article provides because it is a hyperactive experimental noise rock band with a love for good music.
Since the band's formation, Bert Maple (guitar, vocals) has built a skilled crew consisting of Travis Hess (keyboards, samples), Don Parkison (Warr guitar, vocals) and Jay Schwan (drums) into a rock 'n' roll machine, producing seven self-released EPs in a little over a year.
The latest album begins with "Clutch Yer Rifle," a hot little piece full of samples, feedback and words that you would love to sing along to if you could understand them through the filter. This song showcases the best the band offers: skilled musicians, a conglomeration of musical styles, raw yet seamless composition, and well-placed samples. Due to the mishmash nature of the music, it's hard to tell where the first song ends and the next starts playing, but this no-holds-barred noise is simply lovely.
Song four, "Brad Renfro: Cut down the front> Tale of a plane crash" begins with samples of a girl's scream interspersed with drumming and a ditty reminiscent of the Addams Family. It then drifts off into the land of teen love story soundtrack and then over to rock 'n' roll. It's not that Colonial Excess can't decide what they want to play -- it's that they want to play everything all at once. And somehow their dizzying dissonance doesn't turn out to be much dissonance at all. It actually works.
Kids, do try this at home.
Two songs later, "Down in the Books" leaves you wondering if your little brother was messing with the tape recorder. Were there just hard-core segments shoved in the middle of the beautiful Ben Folds Five-ish melody? Is there a little jam band twang at the end of that guitar phrase?
Even though it's not as compositionally tight as it could be, and it is probably the least complex song on the album, "Down in the Books" appeals to the musical everyman sensibility.
Colonial Excess leaves you with "Skyroadtotokyo" as the last song, a trippy, outer spacey melody with highlighted lyrics: "Milky chill/ monkey will/ antennae/ and then I. Who's got the balls to call and say/ that we would get right back to ya. Hey boys put your gas masks on/ It's time to go play God." The song is inspired by a picture from a 1940s Life magazine of WWII bomber pilots who dropped Little Boy and Fatman, "Sky ride to Tokyo" being the caption.
The song ultimately leaves you hanging, wanting more, more noise, more closure on the album -- you want a song that definitely denotes the end. But Skyroadtotokyo isn't the end; you will get more. At the rate Colonial Excess is recording, they will have another album out before the end of the year. And guaranteed, it won't sound like anything you've heard from them, or anyone else, yet.
Bring on the noise.
-- Sara Gallagher
Locals Live Showcase featuring Colonial Excess and Constellations
32 Bleu , 32 S. Tejon St.
Wednesday, Nov. 24, 9 p.m.