TRULY UNIQUE The pair who are Crunk Witch.
Crunk Witch's new Faith in the Thief
is the most truly unique album to come out locally since, well, Crunk Witch's debut full-length, Legends of Manicorn
, released on Milled Pavement in 2010. You'd swear it was a mashup of about 15 other bands, veering (sometimes erratically) from scream-core to '80s synth pop to industrial to good old rock and roll.
It's a crazed energy that crackles off the married couple, Brandon Miles and Hannah Collen (they met via MySpace) who make up the duo, not quite disturbing, but like they see the world from two universes to the left of everyone else. Maybe it stems from their residence in Presque Isle? Something led them to cover New Kids on the Block's "Step by Step" in the interim between full-lengths. Something attracted that crazy Jenna Marbles broad who's got a quarter-billion views on YouTube.
Really, most of this has been true since Miles started releasing electronic-based work as a solo artist (his debut Kiss the Stars came out in 2008), and with his vocals infusing every song it would be easy to peg Collen as just the on-stage button pusher for the live shows (they're about to embark on a 34-date tour), but she's a songwriting partner, too, and her influence in the thematic cohesiveness that Manicorn and Thief share seems clear.
This time around, we've got a pair of Bond-like protagonists and while it's not quite a concept album there are plenty of lyrical marking points for those looking to follow along. Plus, despite a healthy does of melodramatic deliveries, they're actually pretty witty.
I mean, "Glocktopus"? Why isn't that a show on Cartoon Network? The song itself is just a massive mish-mash of who the fuck knows what, with a Middle Eastern vibe and thick beats like swimming in sludge, tied to vocals alternately screamed and crooned: "I got legs like Hollywood!"
That's backed by an absolutely huge (and catchy) rock tune, like a Them Crooked Vultures tune fed through R2-D2, "Kill Phil." He's a man of action; he's got a fist full of silver; he's always dressed to kill; he can feel the nighttime calling him. And you're air-drumming like crazy. Who cares if there are no actual percussion instruments being played? By the finish, when Miles moves into soaring vocals, it's the kind of contemporary sound you might hear on the next Sparks the Rescue album.
Really, because of all the electronic backbeats and pounding whomp-whomp Deadmau5 vibe, it's easy to overlook how good the songwriting is here. They toy with verse-chorus-bridge construction, but often surprise with primal screamo where you were expecting a turnaround, or suddenly get all breathy-croon like they're penning odes to Sixteen Candles.
"Star Spangled Bang" is an absolute roller-coaster, opening with a dainty little keyboard line, then bringing in a rapid skittering beat, full-on laser-blaster craziness, before giving way to Rocky Horror vamp. Then you get it all again like they threw all of the above in a blender and shot it back out at you.