Slipknot’s Clown, Shawn Crahan, has a bit of a side project in the Dirty Little Rabbits. Best described as a circus act brimming with energy and a sense of perverse theatre, the Rabbits are fronted by vocalist Stella Katsoudas and include Crahan on drums, Ty Fyhrie on guitar, Michael Pfaff on keys, and Jeff Karnowski laying it down on bass.
Dirty Little Rabbits’ Simon is the band’s second EP and their first available in wide release. 2007’s Breeding was only sold in a New York record shop.
Simon is an attention-grabbing album, swelling with frenzied force and all sorts of idiosyncratic destructiveness. There is foolishness and happiness to these songs, as an undercurrent of profound gloom slices through the surfaces and meshes with the instruments and Stella’s voice to produce something that belongs in a psych ward.
At times, Stella’s lyrical arrangements would seem at home in a Slipknot tune but her vocal presentation is more fit for a playground filled with sick children. One can almost imagine her skipping through the songs as a cruel tempest of instruments bangs through the background.
Musically, the six songs on Simon are diverse and interesting. The heaviness comes not from forcing the issue but rather from the lightness and subtleties of the musical construction. Fyhrie’s guitar is ever-present but never invasive, allowing the other instruments to create a slab of solid mood behind Stella’s vocals.
The EP’s opener, “Poor Poor Woman With Her Head in the Oven,” is a dark and distressing piece of noise music. It is guided by Karnowski’s bass and pulls a tight groove over a haunted church organ and squealing sound effects. The crunch of Fyhrie’s guitar pushes the impetus of the instrumental track forward and introduces the rest of the three ring circus to come.
Crahan’s thump pounds with electronic noise on “You Say,” giving Stella’s syrupy voice a place to play. When the song hits its driving speed, we are given an example of what this vocalist can really do as she cranks out some high notes and diverts back to a wavering, irresolute tone.
Stella truly creates a character when she sings, giving each tune high drama.
“Happy” is a melodious cut that feels euphoric and Stella’s lyrics tell us why. “It’s been a long time since I have needed you, I love you but we’re through,” she intones. “I’m so fucking happy.”
With grand theatre and a sense of characterization, Crahan’s Dirty Little Rabbits make for an appealing side project. Stella is a remarkable, charming vocalist blessed with strong drama and emotion, granting us a way in while still leaving the exit wide open in case she wants to make a break for it. Chase her at your peril.