Missed Music

Music you didn’t know you needed…until now.

Organic indie rock from side project/supergroup Ugly Casanova

I picked up a disc called “Sharpen Your Teeth”  by a band called Ugly Casanova a few weeks ago at the library. I liked it, but it sounded veeeery familiar. I couldn’t place it. On the Ugly Casanova website, there is a long and slightly too-quirky-to-be-true story of Edgar Graham, a.k.a. Ugly Casanova. Ostensibly, Graham was an odd character who impressed the band Modest Mouse. After hanging around with the band a bit while they were on tour, he began to share some of his own music and even performed some of it before a few shows, always disappearing after the impromptu performances with a look of anger and shame. He created a few recordings and then vanished. Members of Modest Mouse took up his music and have been performing it in the hopes that he would return someday. Well, that’s the story, anyway.

Hey, it's a hell of a lot cooler than that ridiculous Chris Gaines crap.

In fact, Ugly Casanova is a side project involving Isaac Brock and Dan Gallucci of Modest Mouse, Pall Jenkins and Brian Deck from Black Heart Procession Tim Rutili of Califone. Brock invented Edgar Graham perhaps to add interest to the project, perhaps to deflect attention away from himself in interviews. Whatever.

The music is interesting. It’s more stripped down than either Modest Mouse or Califone. There aren’t as many elements or as much polish as in these guys’ permanent projects, but there is plenty of interest. The melodies are appealing and the guys are adept at laying back to serve the song – or sometimes to lay down a canvas for another musician to paint. They keep things pretty organic, even to the point of sounding a little like Tom Waits from time to time. It won’t be for everyone and I didn’t like every song, but check out these 3 absolute winners.

  • Parasites – There are horns that play a pretty steady riff and the percussion is patient and groove oriented. The guitar and various affects noodle around behind a brief description of what happens to your body when you die.
  • Things I Don’t Remember – The percussion marches along with vamping guitar. The vocals are layered and interact but the real interest comes from the bizarre lyrics. “There was dressed up alligator. There was cum on the piano. Disco dancing neighbors who were born in mashed potatoes.” OK, then.
  • So Long to the Holidays – This is the album’s closer, and as often happens, this one doesn’t sound like a lot of the rest of the album. It’s a little more electronic and there is a fuzzy white noise permeating the song. The wailing vocals sound like something from Animal Collective. It’s a beautiful piece.

Ugly Casanova put out “Sharpen Your Teeth” in 2002 and only released the follow-up this year, the soundtrack to 180° South: Conquerors of the Useless. Fortunately for me (and you perhaps), I didn’t discover these guys until their follow-up was out already so I don’t have to wait 8 years like people who liked it when it was new.

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November 25, 2010 - Posted by | Indie, Popular, Rock

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