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Review: Vic Thrill’s CE-5

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Prologue: Vic Thrill, the band who has recently expanded its name to Vic Thrill & The Saturn Missile to illustrate that they are now a two-piece, is getting set to release their second full-length record. Being that it’s set to drop any day now, and many people still have never experienced their music, I felt compelled to rerun my assessment of their debut, which was originally posted to both Epinions.com and Amazon.com.

Once upon a time in the ’90s, there was a little band from Long Island called The Bogmen. This band of merry men, fronted by singer/songwriter Billy Campion, formulated a delightful brand of ebullient art-rock with a sardonic edge. Although The Bogmen had a very loyal, rabid fan base, they were never able to achieve mainstream success, toiling for several years in relative obscurity before finally calling it quits in 1998. Rising from the ashes of his defunct band, Billy Campion reinvented himself as Vic Thrill. He formed a new, eponymous band with the help of two former Bogmen, bassist Mark Wike and drummer Derek Finan, as well as ex-Garden Variety guitarist Anthony Rizzo, who adopted the pseudonym Saturn Missile.

Many Bogmen fans eagerly followed Billy Campion’s transformation to Vic Thrill – a testament to his charismatic persona considering that his current musical stylings are pretty far removed from his past work. Campion is like a modern-day pied piper, minus the bad intentions. Wherever this man leads you, you can be sure you’ll be thoroughly entertained when you get there. Such is the case with CE-5, Vic Thrill’s full-length debut. An entertaining mix of just about any genre you can think of, and probably some you’ll have to make up, this CD will make you dance, laugh, think and leave you fumbling for words to describe it.

Though difficult to describe stylistically, CE-5 can easily be categorized as a blast of pure energy. Vic is a man who loves experiencing everything life has to offer. The joy that he projects through music is palpable, and one can’t help but feel positively giddy while listening to this record. Vic Thrill is not just a cool name that Campion thought might look good on a marquee. He really embraces the idea of the “vicarious thrill”, whereby listeners of his music are able to experience all the emotions that he puts into it.

The broad mix of emotions and influences that were used to create this music make it impossible to confine CE-5 to any one genre. While there is a definite focus on electronic sounds throughout this record, it is nowhere near the realm of Moby or Portishead, artists whose monotony and pretension perfectly illustrate why electronica is often maligned. Vic Thrill overcomes those preconceived notions with music that is vibrant, witty and never boring.

Take the first track, “Hummingbird Pneumonia”, which can only be described as a complete sensory assault. Even the most astute listener out there would have a tough time trying to identify all the instruments and effects that are present on this song. The music makes a sound in parts that actually conjures up images of hummingbirds flitting around. The vocals are achieved by layering many different distorted versions of Vic’s voice over each other, resulting in what sounds like an extraterrestrial barbershop quartet. This song is the perfect introduction to Vic Thrill, because it packs all of their spirit, musicianship and technological expertise into a tight little ball that explodes when it reaches your ears. You’ll never hear anything like this song on the radio and there is no mistaking it for anything else.

The rest of the songs on CE-5 seem to use that first track as a starting point, each one diverging down a different path, while still staying true to the space-age theme of the record. Songs like the title track and “Rebellion of the Cloned” are psychedelic trips to distant galaxies. “Wailing Wall” and “Afrological” are great futuristic rock songs with impossibly catchy choruses. “Living in the Love Life After” is Cake-style melodic rap, while “Smeared” is a ska-flavored adrenaline rush. The record closer, “Zero Odds”, is a stripped-down slow burn that gradually swells to a hard rocking, guitar-driven release that ends the record 180 degrees from where it began.

Highlights of this record include the funk-pop epic, “Everything Here is Filled with Cream” and “The Williamsburg Strangler”. The former begins with an extended musical intro, building with so many different sounds that your ears won’t know what to do with themselves. Suddenly, a blazing guitar riff hits, and a pumping disco beat emerges that will make even the staunchest wallflowers get down. The latter is a hypnotic dance groove with a dark side. The serial-killer inspired lyrics give the song a decidedly menacing tone while the electronic choir, which sounds eerily like women screaming, is quite chilling. Still, it manages to remain accessible, thanks to a dazzling array of techno beats and Vic’s ethereal vocals.

Vic Thrill’s CE-5 is not just a collection of songs; it is a musical adventure. How this talented and strikingly original band has remained virtually unknown is a complete mystery. Perhaps, as another song suggests, “Nobody’s Watching the Radar”? Well, start paying attention, folks. No doubt there are more thrills to come.

Ed/Pub:LisaM

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