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Music Review: Whales and Cops – Great Bouncing Icebergs (EP)

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In listening to Whales and Cops’ Great Bouncing Icebergs, I can’t help but think of Roadside Monument’s swan song, I am the Day of Current Taste.  Few remember such albums, and it’s a shame.  Some albums are just too inventive for their own good.  Great Bouncing Icebergs shares the math rock, post-punk tendency of I am the Day of Current Taste, but Whales and Cops do all their work through loops, blips, and electronic hiccups.

Even likening Great Bouncing Icebergs to anything else doesn’t quite work other than to allow a window into bits and pieces of its makeup; it’s not precise enough.  For instance, “Bent Cop” doesn’t really have anything to do with math rock.  It floats on organ and flute as if it should sit on a Death Cab for Cutie record – at least for the first minute or so of its play time.  The percussion is diverse and reckless.  Hand drums sit along what sounds like trash cans and chimes.

The instrumentation on Great Bouncing Icebergs doesn’t sound mechanical.  Flute, violin, clarinet, cello, sax, and – oh yeah – flugelhorn all weave squares of color into the quilt.  It’s organic first and foremost, an electronic album that doesn’t sound like electronica.

The stand out track, the flagship of the album, is “Suave Homeless Asshole”.  At nine-plus minutes, it’s neither too long nor too smug.  It’s nearly wordless.  At times cacophonous, gothic, cheery, spacey, “Suave Homeless Asshole” reminds that making a song over five minutes long can be done well.  In fact, Great Bouncing Icebergs sounds like a cohesive album more than an EP.  It’s hard to believe that the EP is only twenty-one minutes long.  So much is packed in there.

I had never heard of Whales and Cops before now.  I don’t think many outside of Philly have.  On the strength of Great Bouncing Icebergs, however, if there’s any justice in the record biz – and I’m not sure that there is – Whales and Cops will keep making records.  What’s more likely is that talent like this will delight a select few audiophiles and will be completely ignored by anyone with money to throw behind such a unique band.

As far as recommendations go, this one goes without saying.  It’ll cost you little, and it’s worth a lot.  This will most likely be on a short list of my favorite listens of 2009.

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About Luke Johnson