Thursday, June 9, 2011

dredg - Chuckles And Mr. Squeezy

Release Date: May 3, 2011
Label: Superball Music 

Every once in awhile, an artist you once thought quite credible, maybe even accomplished, goes out and makes an album so head-scratchingly terrible that it becomes even more memorable than had he made a reasonably respectable record.  The best example is Chris Cornell's solo album, Scream, which featured a very bizarre collaboration with Timbaland, and signature Timbaland electric pop.  This was quite the surprise, considering Cornell's background (even Audioslave was tolerable, even if it wasn't great).

So you can imagine my glee when I read up on the new dredg album.  If you haven't heard of them, dredg is an art rock/prog rock outfit from California, with a moderately sized following, and four albums under their belt, each of them fairly unique.  The reviews I read were some of the most unfavorable I've seen in awhile; it was far more poorly received, for example, than the latest Muse album, which I considered to be credibility-destroying.  The biggest complaint, of course, was the new electronic soundscapes, this time due to an awkward collaboration with producer Dan the Automator.  Based on what I heard, this transcended "band musically evolved and the fans just couldn't handle the change," and reached "band just went batsh*t crazy."

Can you see why I was so excited to listen to this?  I thought Chris Cornell was going to have some competition.  This was going to be a truly memorable collapse by a band that at one point was making great records, and might have even been close to being in my top ten (back in my college days).

Imagine my dismay, even horror, when I listened to this, and found that it is...good?  No, I'm not prepared to say it is good just yet.  But it's not anywhere near as bad as Scream, and it might even be better than that new Arctic Monkeys album I for some reason put on afterwards.  Despite the fact that I hate electronic music, and the fact that hiring an awkward producer never works, this is not terrible.

Yes, the album title sucks.  The cover looks like the artist who made the cover of the latest Ke$ha album picked up one of his rejected album covers, did a bunch of angel dust, and went to town on the singer's face.  Most of the songs are at best pedestrian.  But it is listenable!  A couple of tracks ("The Ornament," a piece of which superbly closed their third album, Catch Without Arms; "Where I'll End Up") are actually decent.

Chuckles And Mr. Squeezy is a somewhat forgettable album from a unique band that used to write pretty good albums.  I'm at once relieved and disappointed to say that Scream is still in a league of its own.


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