Chicken & the Chick Flicks’ Too Bad About the Sun, out now on Shinkoyo, is exhilarating for reasons that most records simply aren’t. A microtonal-poetry reading for a demented albeit low-key dream, the record pairs Thax Douglas — he of the live concert reading; check the resume here — with Skeletons b(r)and leader Matt Mehlan, and the results are pretty thrilling, though a little unbalanced.
If press materials are to be believed, Douglas and Mehlan, way back in 2006, just jammed on the material contained herein at the Silent Barn in NYC until it jelled and one can hear the ambiguity of each piece kind of wrap its fingers around the grooves of your brain. (Mehlan recently discovered the recordings and prepared them for release.)
Mehlan’s noodling, drummer-less, vaguely post-rockish instrumentals are the perfect background for Douglas’ sometimes-raspy, often-emotion-parched microtonal readings and, though sometimes the music is more a thorn than a bud (”Frozing”), the subtle variations on scales and measures add a kind of emphasized break to Douglas’ readings, a way of turning stanzas into verses and choruses, if you will. Much of the record recalls the lo-fi vocal mannerisms of a Daniel Johnston or Jad Fair, but its title track and parts of the fretless guitar-scraping ”Welcome To My World” elicit more parallels with Partch’s invented ensembles. The closing ”Food For The Restless” and the space-cadet-armed ”Goodbye To Candy” are mind-benders. And, for a record this bizarre, that’s saying a lot.
Let it be read into the record: this is not a record for most. Too Bad About the Sun seems to almost go out of its way to be confrontational in presentation and vaguely amusical, if I can coin such a term. But, for a person looking for a unique spoken word recording, or a Mehlan enthusiast seeking his work outside of Skeletons and Uumans, Too Bad About the Sun isn’t too bad at all.