Surfing by Megapuss / 2008
I am not a stranger to the weird and woolly ways of Devendra Banhart, one-half of the project that is Megapuss, a freak-folk-ish duet that "started off as a joke." Humor is abound in this premiere release (as one can tell by the oh-so-serious cover, sporting the two men naked and looking as, ahem, vagrant as ever), but talent remains the forerunner, as with any Devendra project.
The album starts in with a choir of lazy horns, and quickly turns into the driving folk rock atmosphere that floats through the cohesive registry of fourteen songs with ease and familiarity. Greg Rogove, Banhart's partner-in-crime here and also drummer of Priestbird, offsets Devendra well, often managing to mellow out his fellow folkster's sharp, warbling vocals, at least enough to not confuse Megapuss with Dev's own solo work.
The album benefits from its steady, and eventually predictable, library of fun interjections, playful guitar strumming, hand claps, pop-like melodies, and plenty of frolicking front and back vocals. But the album holds a few pleasant surprises as well. Among the etchings of bizarre humor and mewing lies real musical talent and, ultimately, a treat for the ears. "Adam & Steve," a track that establishes the distinct Megapuss sound best, features a morsel of electric guitar that isn't out of place in the least bit. And the boys manage a flawless aquatic atmosphere with "Surfing" while channeling a conglomerate of The Doors' best hits and The B-52s' "Rock Lobster" in groovy "Hamman". The album slows down beautifully in the last three tracks from its driving, classic rock-infused pop with Devendra's best hushed and raspy vocals over a soaring landscape of piano ("Sayulita" and "Older Lives") and ukulele (in "Another Mother"), ending it just as lithely as it began.
Further listens, however, heed the skipping of one particular track, "Chicken Titz". While I am not bothered by the obvious humor or dichotomous lyrics (I welcome them on any occasion), I am bothered by the echoes of a lame 50s summer ballad. Banhart fails to endear me with this track, much unlike glorious, 50s-esque "At the Hop" (from his solo album Niño Rojo). The three minutes and fifty-six seconds that is "Chicken Titz" doesn't seem worth a second listen, especially compared to the genius that Megapuss flaunts in the rest of the album.
And flaunt they do. As a whole, this album is a resounding success to freak-folkers and classic rock lovers alike. Megapuss proves that things can be seriously great when you don't take them so serious.
"Theme from Hollywood"