Raccoo-oo-oon - Behold Secret Kingdom (Release the Bats CD)
This band is way too easy to hate. They got major league hype and then all sorts of backlash and it's kinda gone so far in reverse that I almost feel bad for them in a way (not that they need my sympathy or nothin'). And at the same time, I also hold them in contempt. First of all they remind me Animal Collective, a band whose name I'm even loathe to type because they inspire so many bad feelings in my guts. Then they have that dreadful band name which was probably invented by Panda Bear or Gentle Hawk or whoever from Animal Collective. Then their press photos typically rock that outdoorsy/in touch with nature/faux-hippie pastiche...oh dear. I was trying to come up with a term I could use to assess/slander these kinds of bands and "Wal-Mart psychedelia" was the best I could do, and pretty fitting I think. So why bother with the "Behold Secret Kingdom"? Did I merely listen to the album and write about them in my blog only to trash them? It may seem like that, but wait! It's not what you think!
Truth be told, I want to like Raccoo-oo-oon, in spite of just about everything about them. I listened to (and reviewed) their last CD on Release the Bats, "Is Night People", and it had some pretty inspired moments. Well, "Behold Secret Kingdom" is more of the same. This group is (was) billed as a psychedelic-punk-something-or-other band, but god knows they don't hit on those moments often enough. If they really were as psychedelic and as punk and as earth-lovin' as their press releases would have them to believe, they could be my favorite band. However, this record was recorded and produced with a sickeningly bright sheen to it, negating almost any supposed air of punk ethos, while most of the psychedelia is the kind of rehearsed looseness that drives me up the wall, like anybody is dumb enough to believe these tracks are as off-the-cuff as the band would have you believe. But as I said, there are moments. Moments when the shackles come off and my preconceived notions fly out the window and I ask "why can't they play like this the whole 50 minutes?" - "Mirror Blanket" is a pop song at its core and functions exactly the same way as "Fluff Up Your Fur" did prior, building an insanely catchy rock rhythm via swirling guitars and dedicated drumming, topped off with a buzzing free electronic buzz wailing over top. The cooing and yelling and moaning is a bit much, but what the hell, might as well take it all the way home now that we're here. The same naive vocal tricks taint the otherwise enjoyable "Invisible Sun", a colossal stoner rock riff-laden anthem, and "Visage of the Fox", which is a pretty lame xylophone/drum/etc jam until another it lands in the throes of more sludgy riffing and world-beating drums that Brian Chippendale could be proud of. "Fangs and Arrows" brings more heavyosity, again courtesy Ryan Garbes meaty percussion, far and away the best thing these guys have going for them. At times his thundering, apocalyptic crashes are the only things keeping the songs afloat, particularly when they get bogged down too much in kitschy campfire jams (see: almost every part of the album I didn't mention), which is my main sticking point with "Behold Secret Kingdom" and indeed the band as a whole. Ditch the grating "whoa we're just a coupla bros jammin' in the forest wearing dirty jeans and beads" shtick with the overdramatic vocals and jangling and zany instruments and stick to the balls-to-the-walls, fucked up, psychedelic, punk rock jams! Then we'll be buds! As for a recommendation...well if you think Animal Collective is the most avant-garde shit around and you bump it playing Wii Sports snacking down on Mountain Dew while wearing ankle socks...have I got a record for you!
Visage of the Fox
Diamonds in the Dunes