Little Joe Gould, Like The Exorcist, But More Breakdancing (Eyeball)

Posted December 15th, 2002 by admin

Little Joe Gould
Like The Exorcist, But More Breakdancing
By: Eric Greenwood

Ok, so it's impossible not to mention the obvious contrast between the silliness inherent to the band's name and its song titles to its darkly gorgeous and tense music. Little Joe Gould (taken from an e.e. cummings poem) is a quintet from Bloomington, Indiana whose music is so dark it can't help but laugh. That's the only explanation I can think of to justify its inane album title, song titles, etc. But once you reconcile the severe dichotomy between the music and the presentation, it's easy to get lost in the band's ambitiously orchestrated, genre-defying music.

Of course, you'd never expect a band with an album called Like The Exorcist, But More Breakdancing to sound anything even remotely like this. This isn't tongue in cheek irony like snooty experimentalists Don Caballero spewed out, condescendingly, though. Little Joe Gould is sincere, incorporating the sprawling textures of contemporaries like Godspeed You Black Emperor, the post-rock doom of Slint, the hopelessness of The Cure, and stellar musicianship to create one of the most original albums I've come across in ages. The presence of vocals keeps Little Joe Gould's message tangible, separating it from all the instrumental Constellation-type bands that exist on the fringe of utter pretentiousness.

Perhaps, Little Joe Gould's secret weapon is its outstanding production. Not that the production is particularly slick, but it is heavy and organic and alive. The opening instrumental, "Those Who Stayed", is a dour piece, showcasing the cello's interplay with clean, arpeggiated guitars and buxom drumming. It's a flowing, expansive work that culminates in a mind-blowing climax that prompts me to ask where has this band been all my life?

"I'm Afraid of Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolfe" utilizes distorted, programmed beats to rumble repetitively beneath the sweeping keyboards and tension-building strings. Adam Turla's vocals fit right in. He has a clean choirboy voice with only a hint of affectation, but his dramatic yet cerebral lyrics ratchet things up to the next level: "expand the image/up the insults/negativism through and through/all of this pretending makes you feel a bit confused/you've spent your life losing yourself/and now you're marked as used." Now that's how you phrase some lyrics, by damn. If I were a gatekeeper, and that guy needed to get through my gate, whipping out some lines like that would be a guaranteed pass.

"A Caucus Race" continues the upward trajectory. Turla lets loose vocally, amidst exquisite instrumentation and truly stupendous phrasing: "casino lights still flicker in your eyes/your teeth taste faintly of flesh and gold tonight/you've been waiting for a long time between the dancing and the refill line." It's moody and beautiful and overwrought, but there's not a dull moment. Little Joe Gould unleashes the blistering rock on "You Are The Last Dragon (You Possess The Power Of The Glow)." Compositionally, Little Joe Gould is far more experienced than its years would indicate (average age in the band is twenty). Distorted bass beats itself against propulsive drums but without warning the song veers into a crystalline tangent, led by the cello and an old Fender Rhodes keyboard sound. It's staggeringly good.

The slow, lumbering beauty of "Intergalactic Menopause" builds into a jubilant crescendo, as Turla intones resignedly, "I guess it's time for a change/I never wanted a change/I think it's time for a change." "Those Who Left", the companion piece to the opener, "Those Who Stayed", is another bombastic instrumental, but having proven its songwriting chops beyond a doubt, such borderline indulgences are easily forgiven, especially when they are this breathtaking.

Like The Exorcist, But More Breakdancing is an astonishing debut. It creeps into your head, nagging you subliminally to play it again and again. From seemingly out of nowhere, this band has usurped the rights to all the accolades heaped upon lesser bands of a so-called "experimental" nature. If you haven't heard of Little Joe Gould yet, don't worry- it's just a matter of time. But if you want to get a jump on things, find this album now. A friend recommended it to me, and I can't thank her enough.

Tags: review