Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Inflatable Best Friend - self released full length
Ian from Kalamazoo, Michigan contacted me a little while back because his band Inflatable Best Friend was just about to release their first full length album, DMT Bike Ride. Bassist Austin McQuater, percussionist Ian Howell, and guitarist/vocalist Tanner Boerman are a classic rock and roll trinity playing a Butthole Surfer sound combined with a sludgy, northwestern grunge. It’s been recorded live and loose in a room together, the way best friends should record music...even Inflatable ones.
I first came across the trio on an Obvious Records compilation single where they did, “My Dead Bird” which ended up in a slightly different form on this full length. Spending time with the eleven tracks on DMT Bike Ride there’s something about the obvious chemistry from this close knit group of friends barely out of high school that had me wanting to go further into their ultra scuzzy and raw sound.
The opening track, “Spiritual Journey to the Gas Station" sets the tone for the record with a booming drum section from Ian and scuzzy layers of guitar on an equal playing ground with the intimate echo vocals from Tanner about “...a trip to NY to meet the biggest bands / and make their wildest dreams come true”. Heavy on grit with a thin Bleach sound and quivering Jello Biafra style manic vocals, the cobbled together patchwork melodies give just enough to hold on to for this mostly heavy experimental rock album.
"I Want To Ride A Sabertooth” fades feedback into finger tapping with fuzzy bass lines. The tapping turns into speed metal picking, the tom based stomp beat and doubled vocals are a collaboration between the Unicorns and Ween’s metal leanings. The quirky melody of high end harmonics keeps this an approximation of a goofy pop place. They are willing to entertain stupid dreams and live them out like this sketch on a Trapper Keeper sleeve.
"Moon Flower Soul" moves even closer to the Surfers free form spazz guitar track with Tanner buried way back under the echo and that guitar is front and center, growling effects and switching up the melody in gleaming junkyard style, picking up the repetition and running with it. The bassline / cymbal crash beat keep the blinders on, straight down the highway. Not hippie in any way, just a slow and messed up cough syrup haze. "Blood Surf" is what leather clad metal bands must think about either coasts. A comparison to something they have no frame of reference for. Technical finger mastery of deep, low end grunge chords cutting right through the layers of grit with higher harmonies on top for extra ooomph. As the track ends you hear the band whisper almost to themselves.... 'yea!’.
"Apiss malifera" finds a different space than the rest of this record, playing in a slower instrumental style that goes almost prog and completely blown out, like that lofty Zookeepers 12". The effects are thick and massive with challenging changes headed for lots of damage. A freakish vocal, like an escaped patient, placed next to these pleasant chords lulling you into a false sense of calm. Intensive warbled effects and this track gets full psych until the bass pulls out a heavy groove, the wall crashing back in, hitting on stylized ancient riffs. Just when you thought they couldn't devolve further... they can.
By "brisk steel sun" they’ve got the elemental primal sound down, slowing to a crawl with juicy watery strums, loose snare rolls lead and explosions of guitar but they aren’t happy for very long living in a quieter place. Each track ends up reaching for the furthest fuzzy echo and chaotic heights. Sinister like an ozzy bobblehead, their distortion turns 8 bit, a pale shadow of its former self.
"Thistle girl" takes an opening from the glitch door of massive resampling and ringtoning the deep scuzzz. Infer a melody out of the dust and gravel left behind, the vocals are sliding into a heavy distorto Sabbath sound. That amp stack is wired for these breakout solos almost every thirty seconds or so. The guitar can’t stand still for a single second always the hardest working member of the band, blasting through every single measure. This damaged beyond all repair guitar could be classified almost noise at this point, like a Lighting Bolt side project. Loose and sketchy, they're managed to capture the best possible accidental take where they all line up. An instrumental conceptual battle where you sense the troops charging and falling back in waves, coming up a total loss. We're all dead and for what?
Inflatable Best Friend are really pushing that chasm between rigid recognizable pop and the things (through various substances) that come from losing your mind in the garage, forgetting (or never even knowing) everything about playing that instrument.
Great interview over at Recoil Mag with the band and check their facebook page to pick up a vinyl copy.