Spending time with Custardpaws and Mr. Freezy
Jeff Badger is a bit of a Renaissance man-about-town — visual artist of all stripes; musician of all stripes with the Hot Dogs/Transmission Drop — with a reputation for dabbling in the absurd and ridiculous. For the return of his long-dormant duo project with from-awayer Blair Wells, Custardpaws and Mr. Freezy (they last released work in 1999), he mostly continues in this vein, with a collection of 14 songs for a new full-length. On short notice, I sampled five songs clocking in under 12 minutes that are both highly listenable and a little bit off.
Judging by this group, The Buffalo is a rollicking ride through any number of musical types, with an art-rock sensibility that expresses itself with a fair bit of piano, digital sounds, and generally verse-chorus-verse construction. The songs are dense enough that two minutes is often exhaustingly enough.
The title track might remind of White Album Beatles, playful but a little bit dark: "The idiot king makes his decree/Imprison the children/Set the dragons free." There's a carnival atmosphere and a screechy finish wrapped around an '80s-style, down-in-the-mouth chorus.
Back that up to a Harry Nilsson vibe to "The Golden City," which is off-kilter and playful just as the narrative is desperate and dying: "No one will find us/We're like the tooth in a monster's mouth."
"We Conquer" surprises as a very danceable single kind of thing — think Cut Copy or Cornershop — but they kill your buzz in the chorus if you don't watch out. And then they surprise again with the semi-serious love tune, "We Meet Again," which still manages to be absurdist: "We get tattoos/In Chinese script/You get a list of the seven deadly sins/I get a pair of fish."
In general, these songs are fun and rollicking and come off like a couple of guys having a good time with seeing what might stick when they throw stuff at the wall. As long as you manage your expectations appropriately, you might find yourself enjoying Custardpaws and Mr. Freezy's company. And they might be wearing gorilla suits.
Sam Pfeifle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
THE BUFFALO | Released by Custardpaws and Mr. Freezy | with Peter Squires + Britta Pejic with Les Frenchman | at Blue, in Portland | March 31 | custardpawsandmrfreezy.bandcamp.com
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