Hey kids! You know that group The Postal Service? Of course you do… they had a couple songs that got used on The O.C., didn't they? That O.C. is some kind of show. When they killed that chick on that last season-finale — you know, the one who weighs about twelve pounds and was prettier when she was 13 — I nearly lost it. Man, I was so devastated. I wonder what they'll do for an encore. Maybe Evil Eyebrow Man will sing some more. That would be so awesome. So yeah, you know The Postal Service. It's that long-distance thing between some mellow-techno-pop dude and that guy who sings in The Cars That Ate Paris or something like that.
Anyway, while you were bopping around in your underwear and singing to your teddy bear about great heights and snoozing districts, did you ever wonder what this band might be if they changed their sound a bit? If instead of twee indie electropop, they decided to get really noisy? And, most importantly, if they stopped sucking? Wonder no more, my dear friends – East West Blast Test and their album Popular Music for Unpopular People can answer that for you!
Note that I said 'noisy' and not 'loud.' Popular Music has its share of paint-stripping, ear-bleeding tracks, as you'd expect from a group with the credentials of this one – Chris Dodge has logged time in bands like Spazz and No Use For a Name, while Dave Witte has done work for Burnt by the Sun, Discordance Axis, Phantomsmasher and pretty much anyone who'd let him bash his kit for a while. (The guy even toured with Agoraphobic Nosebleed, thrashing out drumbeats that were created by – and should be able to be recreated solely by – a drum machine.) The album begins as the credits on these names would suggest; "Kind of Black & Blue" is a ferocious, galloping slice of speed metal that sprints by in a blur of violent volume. Then "The Last Drop" pulls out the xylophones.
Yeah, the xylophones. They pop up a lot on Popular Music. The liner notes claim that "Dave Witte plays Trick drums; Chris Dodge plays whatever is within arm's reach," and the music bears out that idea of what-the-hell-let's-try-THIS invention. So alongside grind freakouts like "Corkmaster" and "Long in the Tooth," there's the tribal chant of "Passport to Papua." Or the Zappaesque jazz-noise-here noodlings of "Fathership Invasion," complete with meows. Or the closing track "Welcome to Geelong (Now Go Home)," a three-and-a-half-minute epic festooned with didgeridoos and wailing ululations.
Even a good portion of the expected land speed ear-damagers contain unexpected angles or wrinkles, like the referee's whistle that, apropos of nothing, pops up right in the middle of "Fabulous Slurry." Dodge and Witte keep Popular Music moving at a neck-snapping pace, but they also leech out any sense of oppressiveness or self-importance. The album sounds like what it is – two extraordinarily talented and creative guys messing around and creating anything-goes music; as such, there's an unmistakable sense of fun even within the most blistering bits contained herein. East West Blast Test are assuredly serving up eclectic extremity, but they're garnishing it with a smile and a raised eyebrow. I'll take them over that other USPS-inspired project any day, even if I have no idea what in hey "In the Multi-Purpose Room" is supposed to be.