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Gorch Fock - Thriller Review

by Mark Hensch

The Austin, Texas sextet known only as Gorch Fock (whatever the Hell that means) are kind of a law unto themselves. Try naming another band that has a registered trombone-playing vocalist, dual-percussionists, and a keyboarder who dabbles in effects for starters. If you can somehow achieve that feat, I'm guessing you'll be done after hearing that this band has done four (yes, four) SXSW festival showcases. If you have yet to be stumped by this point, you'll be forced to capitulate after trying to find a band meeting all these traits while having each member play in one or more other Texan rock acts.

The point I was making with the above are that Gorch Fock are a pretty unique entity. Yes, they've played on a custom-made 30 foot boat. But that is beside the point! Stylisitc tics aside, Gorch Fork are musically a pretty unique entity. This is purely unhinged noise rawk that can only be accurately compared to a few other choice Texan acts. Loud, chaotic, and oddly catchy, the most fitting comparison to Thriller would be the Butthole Surfers. After that, the only other similar bands that spring to mind are earlier ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead, whose original noise-punk leanings fit in well here, and The Ministry, whose general effects-drenched mania may have inspired some of this music, though it surely doesn't sound like it. The musical clusterf*** that is Thriller ends up sounding like the world's most melodic schizophrenic breakdown, all while maintaining some level of cartoonish violence not unlike Mike Patton's work in Fantomas. At times jarring, at times sounding like the Vikings burning down a radio-rock station with delightfully messy results.

Delightfully messy though it may be, a mess can still at times be a mess, and nothing but. Though overall this is a challenging, even refreshing release, some of the songs seem rambling or even vaguely aimless. The opening one-two punch combo of "Executive 3000" and "Megumi Miyazato" are a textbook example of this random nature. "Executive 3000" blares forth with some pretty deep riffing and freaky trombone; sadly, it is short and doesn't really grip your attention much. "Miyazato" has a bit more impact. The band mixes some pretty funky basslines with barely contained trombone and a swirling vortex of guitar paranoia. The stomping "Owl Perkins" is actually one of the most versatile, intelligent, and well-crafted tracks on the disc. The percussion is jumpy and frantic, while a sort of sludgy swamp groove permeates every second of the guitars. When you add the wail of trombone to this hypnotic trance-rocker, as well as some very unorthodox vocals, you're bound to have a great tune. "One of 5 Sisters" starts with some trip-hop beats before an airtight bass groove slinks in and the song eventually mushroom clouds into an atomic warhead rock anthem. "Fitzcarrolodo" skitters with some fairly random FX as cymbals slowly splash and the song evolves with mass patience into a decent track that is essentially one big wall-of-sound. The shaking bass of "Patience for the Swede" is yet another album highlight, it's mathematical chaos bleeding into a song every bit as confusing as learning Mandarin Chinese. "Youth at Risk" is even more melodic alternative rock with plenty of buzz, but by now a little variety is needed as things start to blur together. "Sink Star" is at least different than its predescessor, but it also manages to be memorable as well. Elephantine and chugging, the song even has a deep-fried guitar lick here and there. "Mary Had a Little Drug Problem" reminds me of a heavier Trail of Dead who also happened to play with a little bit of slop on purpose. The song itself is pretty rad, but around this time my troubled mind realized the vocals I had felt were so unique a couple songs back are really just bland, unchanging moans. But wow, is the song still awesome! Picture really freaking loud ska on cocaine and you've basically got it folks. The colorful splatter of "Cary Michael Jackson" is all over the place, and has lots of subtle guitar acrobatics. It is some good stuff. The tasty slice of heaven that is "Bourbon County" has some of the deepest, most furious barnstormers the band has ever put to tape. I really dig this and I wish they'd let loose a bit more often. "Randall J. Bisquit Turner (Country Gentleman)" is a short, pointless, near-instrumental that mildly chuffed me off. The band already have a long album so far so why add such random filler to it? The long-winded "Running out of Gas in Prairieville Parish" starts off a whimsical buzz and some foreboding brass before things boil over into a challenging and complex journey through adventurous avant-garde climes. Closing track "The River" hums-and-throbs with an almost prehistoric thunder....furious and gargantuan, this shows a band ready to move into deeper, heavier moods, or so I'd happily wager as the disc goes into a stomping grand finale.

Weird, wondrous, and wild, Gorch Fock may provoke their fair share of headscratching at times but as far as experimental music goes you can do far worse than this. Thriller at times gets lost in its own sense of innovation, but overall the Fock keeps things focused and entertaining in an acid-trip kind of way. Check this out if you are bored of the current drivel on radio yet not entirely ready to plunge into outright insanity.

Track Listing
1. Executive 3000
2. Megumi Miyazato
3. Owl Perkins
4. One of 5 Sisters
5. Fitzcarroldo
6. Patience for the Swede
7. Youth at Risk
8. Sink Star
9. Mary had a Little Drug Problem
10. Cary Michael Jackson
11. Bourbon County
12. Randall J. "Bisquit" Turner (Country Gentleman)
13. Running out of Gas in Prairieville Parish
14. The River

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Gorch Fock - Thriller

Label:Australian Cattle God

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