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Published: 2002/12/22
by Chris Bertolet

SeBoombox – The Disco Biscuits

Megaforce Records 1301

Last March, I got b'gocked at the Whiskey. I had been profoundly
underwhelmed by my first Disco Biscuits show several years earlier, but
decided to give the Santa Cruz transplants a second chance at the
encouragement of my good friend Slippery Dan. They made good.

Shit, they made great. It was like watching the handicapable kid from
the short bus kicking some punk's ass across the playground, all despite
a desperate lack of vocal skills and (c'mon, let's face it) an artistic
concept that really shouldn't fly. They played a "Helicopters" that
night that peeled my skull open and a bunch of other stuff that
generally bitch-slapped me into a respectful condition. I was impressed
enough to subscribe to DiscussBiscuits and soon found myself with a
handful of widely praised shows on CD, including that night on the
Sunset Strip.

Strangely, none of it moved me. It was like I was listening to a band
covering the band that had eaten my mental lunch just weeks earlier.
Matters took a turn for the worse when I looked around on the list and
found myself nearly surrounded by hyenas, posers and homophobes. A
uniformly sweet bunch these fans are not, so I left them to their pill
fetishes and their masturbatory debates on the distinctions between
house, trance, and house trance, and bade the room a hasty farewell.
The lobe of my brain that regulates my obsessions had hung out a "no
vacancy" sign, and I was in no mood to argue. I told the Biscuits I'd
enjoyed our dates, but that I just didn't see a future for us.

Nine months later, I'm falling in like all over again.

Senor Boombox has brass balls. It's crammed with ambitious and
demented compositions, and just plain rocks. If you're looking for
standard, complacent jamband twaddling over familiar four-time chord
progressions, or toss-off lyrics about silent trees, please look
somewhere else. In fact, there isn't much jamming at all on this
record; the Disco Biscuits use most of the bandwidth to showcase Jon
Gutwillig's expanding songwriting acumen, and it proves a judicious
choice.

The best material on Senor Boombox goes straight for the jugular,
from the fist-pumping, machine gun blast of "Floodlights" to the epic
catharsis of "Floes." The catalytic and surefooted "Triumph" bobs and
weaves like a prizefighter, and the oddball "Sound One" could even make
an iconoclast like Zappa tap a toe and smile.

The Biscuits' latest flirtations with dance music idioms work almost as
well. "Jigsaw Earth" careens from a Spearhead-esque dub thing into a
fugue-like middle passage that invites favorable comparisons to "Reba"
— and somehow it all coheres. "Float Like a Butterfly" finds Aron
Magner coaxing hot caramel from his Roland while the rhythm section
channels Gota and the Chemical Brothers. You almost gotta move.

For all its strengths, this recording reveals the Biscuits' persistent
weaknesses. Gutwillig is a talented axe man, but even the fiercest
shredder sounds like shit playing a guitar solo in an electronic
context. To my ears, many of the band's more technical passages still
feel showy and aloof and wanting for melody or feeling.

Of course, I'm splitting hairs. The upshot is that Senor Boombox
is a rare bird in the jam world: an artistic statement that actually
leaves the listener feeling as if he's taken a sprawling journey.
It's a compelling argument for a band with a vision of where it wants to
go and the fuel to get there.

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