This one followed me over from my days at Signal to Noise (good mag, good crits, asshole editor-publisher—try to guess which of the three prompted me to leave) where I caused a few ruckuses. Not surprisingly, the parallel is a bit noticeable, as this is a strange noisy lo-fi / mid-fi enterprise colliding a number of styles to come up with the sort of thing SST might have produced had anyone over there possessed Brain Cell One (you 'member SST, doncha?, the guys who fucked over Negativland?, sure ya do). I suppose you could call Paper Bag a kind of distant cousin to Sensational Grade, as far as it goes. Far more, though, one hears Don Caballero, Remy Zero, a deconstructed Bears (Belew's mediocre group and one that badly needed de- and reconstructing), early Pere Ubu minus the genius, metallized Devo, and, well, Christ only knows what else.
Trash the vocals, they too often suck (and maybe that's the point but don't expect a Grammy, guys, or even a nomination for Most Likely To Become A Janitor), but the rest is a matter of various crosses between spellbinding, intriguing, baffling, and what-the-fuck?!?!, skronky but dementedly clever, pisswater melodic, everything lurking underneath a Waitsian gutter, waiting for innocent passersby to leap upon and rend. There's a definite element of art damage present in Sensational Grade but as embellishment not raison d'être…or only partially so. I wouldn't prescribe this for anyone strung out on anything stronger than Hershey bars lest they run screaming to a detox center, but if you've a taste for strange stuttery arty chaos, Grade has much to recommend it. Start with Pathetic Circuit as the access point, a great cut and something that might have made it to Ubu's Thirty seconds Over Tokyo or that dynamite box set, then work around from there. Don't blame me, though, if you find yourself thereafter distracted, scratching at itching forearms, glancing nervously about, and wondering what the hell happened to the mutant who used to live next door.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2011, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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