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Need New Body - UFO

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Artist: Need New Body

Album: UFO

Label: File 13

Review date: Feb. 17, 2004

Juggling genres is rarely attempted and positive results are even scarcer. Some dabblers sound like they could barely chew gum and walk, let alone shift styles on the go. A special few, however, sound deft enough to go grocery shopping and carry 12 bags back to their fifth floor walk-up. Spastic genre-jumping is a schizophrenic experiment, and one that inevitably leads to a few failed experiments, but Philly’s Need New Body have avoided most of the potential pitfalls and created a diverse masterpiece unlike any other album released in 2003.

The group’s second release for File 13 records, UFO, is a journey into a maniacal mix-tape-maker’s mind as he plays a cross-section of his favorite musical styles, but due to either too many cups of coffee, A-D-D, or simply not enough room on the canvas, he is unable to stay on any one subject for too long.

Five different musical styles are tackled in the first five songs. “Gigglebush meets CompUSA” begins with a beat that quickly fuzzes to the point of inextricable chaos, then fades into the synthetic noise of a video game. The next stop, the club-approved “Hot Shot” smokes like a recently fired pistol, showing off the group’s impeccable percussive talents.

Like any artist who avoids formula, NNB change their style from song to song like a confused traveler, stepping in a different direction with each pace. A dance track stands to be followed by noise or new wave; folk precedes post-punk or free jazz. Bluegrass breakdowns, spoken word poetry, and piano ballads float around the obvious flagship dance tracks in a sort of solar systemic gravitational pull, somehow allowing all of the tracks to coexist without falling into the dreaded abyss of filler. A moment of "free-saxaphonic" madness might lead into a lilting piano line that still manages to move along like a motorboat. Each song becomes that much more impressive and affecting when examined next to a polar opposite.

The strongest tracks remain the dance-oriented neo-New Wave songs, such as the brilliant "Show me Your Heart,” or the kick-start "Hot Shot.” Clearly, the folks of NNB have decided that any sort of instrument can incite the feet to dance, banjos and kitchen utensils not withstanding. Imagine a piano and banjo playing an epileptic East Indian melodic line in unison, while a persistent and perfectly placed beat pushes the tune to its inevitable implosion. And so UFO does go, a veritable melting pot of styles only a maniac would mix, a mix only a maniac could successfully pull off.

By Jacob Daneman

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