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Experimental Dental School - Hideous Dance Attack!!!

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Artist: Experimental Dental School

Album: Hideous Dance Attack!!!

Label: self-released

Review date: Aug. 18, 2004

Experimental Dental School isn’t one of those bands whose aesthetic comes across as subtle or impenetrable to the initiate; aesthetic isn’t probably even a word you’d toss around when characterizing their raw whinny of geek rock. They play a mach-speed dance music requiring you to better grab onto something fast, or risk being dragged behind a whirlwind with a full head of steam as their recently re-recorded self-released CD Hideous Dance Attack!!! (all three punctuation marks necessary) runs its half-hour length.

What you’ll notice first is extreme liberties the trio takes with their traditional combo instruments: guitar, keys, and drums. Shoko Horikawa’s calliope organ mimics ballpark organ, bullfighter ballads, lazy Hawaiian croons, and even spy themes. Drummer Ryan Chittick frequents the hi-hat cymbals on his trap set, keeping a steadily danceable beat with rim-clacks and bouncey toms over the speeding 32nd-note cymbals, maintaining a strong but thin rhythm section without a devoted bass guitar to underline his whacks. Taking the jobs of singing and guitar (both lead guitar and bass guitar on a custom-made instrument he calls “guitar-o-bass”), Jesse Hall proves surprisingly virtuosic, though the emphasis with both instruments is naturally biased to the energetic over the precise. Perhaps it’s irrelevant that the few lines of lyrics that can be understood have something to do with government conspiracy. The wailing glee that appears throughout is more to the point.

Verging often on the corny is not a bad thing for ESD, since they borrow so liberally from a variety of campy organ-driven styles, including European polka, bizarre Fellini-esque carnival waltzes, science-fiction soundtracks, and even some sprinkles of prog-rock. The give and tug from moment to moment as the schizophrenic band attempts to utter coherent musical statements is, in fact, delightful. During casually-executed slow sections that crop up quite suddenly in some places, Hall's vocals and the group's dogma of arch silliness hold up quite nicely - they are much like Deerhoof in that respect. I cringe a bit when it seems damnably obvious that they’re out to shock us with “random” wackiness (e.g., ultra-ludicrous song-titles: "Tractor loves to shuck some cows"; "KKKFC serves sparkily squirl meat,” etc. or Hall using a silver dildo as a slide during live shows). Such off the wall affectation isn’t a particularly egregious sin when flanked by actual talent. Luckily, these quacks back up their bull.

By Joel Calahan

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