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Published: 2011/08/17
by Brian Robbins

Planet Of The Abts
Planet Of The Abts


Listening to Planet Of The Abts’s self-titled debut album is like crash-landing right in the middle of some amazingly wild-ass rhythm-infested cartoon world … except the band is very much real – and they happen to be very serious about making music.

But, sweet Jesus … pick a track – any track. Here: “Off The Hook”. It might be an old mid-60s Jagger/Richards chestnut, but by the time Planet Of The Abts (POA) is done with it, the original head-bopping Alley Oopish main riff is vaporized, replaced by a thundering charge that sounds like Iggy Pop fronting vintage Deep Purple, all steamroller organ and fuzzy/crackling guitar. After a couple in-your-face verses, things just explode into a rolling, tumbling ball of pounding sound (I swear there’s even a one-fingered piano part in there ala “I Wanna Be Your Dog”) that never loses the groove. And that as much as anything is the key to the music of POA: as big, wild, and colorful as things get, THEY NEVER LOSE THE GROOVE.

But how could they? Two-thirds of the core band is Gov’t Mule’s rhythm section – drummer Matt Abts and bassist Jorgen Carlsson – and, if anything, the instant bond the two formed when Carlsson joined the Mule in 2008 has only deepened and strengthened. POA is obviously the result of some sort of crazy experiment: the two now share a common brain, doling out a monstrous sound gumbo of bass/drums/bassdrumsbassdrums that moves as one. (Frankly, boys and girls, it would be scary if it wasn’t so damned fun.) Add to that the heretofore undiscovered (in the US, anyway) talents of multi-instrumentalist/vocalist T-Bone Andersson, an old buddy of Carlsson’s. No wonder Sweden’s kept Andersson a secret up until now: check out the album closer “Trying To Be Myself”, for instance. While the Abts/Carlsson machine percolates in a spacey/jazzy/drift that eventually explodes into a Jimi Hendrix Experience-style rave-up, Andersson soundshifts between vintage Van Halen, raunchy Texas blues, a little bit of his own Jiminess, and a jazzbo reserve that most string flailers never come close to achieving. (Go ahead – reread that sentence if you’d like. That was all one song.)

To the band’s credit, they give equal billing on the album to studio wizard Steve Holroyd – and rightfully so. Holroyd’s approach to POA’s sound perfectly complements their approach to their music: nobody is ashamed of their influences here. If a Beatlesque “Across The Universe”-style spacewalk is the obvious way to get from Point A to Point B in “Anything You Want It To Be”, then that’s what they do. (Check out Andersson’s piano, which never quite gives way, eventually reclaiming the song at the very end after a maelstrom of sound marches through.) Or put an ear to “Circus”: the song’s swooping bass, liquidy sound textures, and do-what-you-want-I’ll-be-right-here-when-you-get-back drumming will have you asking, “Which one’s Pink?” Holroyd is blessed with the ability to go from living-room intimacy to fathoms-deep wall of sound without letting a tune sound over-produced or gimmicky.

Personal favorite: the opener, “Planet Pt. 1”. Abts and Carlsson’s Mulemate Danny Louis guests with some cool horn work that leads the way into what can only be described as the psychedelic theme song to a James Bond movie that needs to be made. I shit you not. (Later, in “Planet Pt. 2”, a total no-holds-barred freakout eventually makes its way back to the “Planet” main theme.)

With Gov’t Mule’s Warren Haynes out exploring the soul music in his soul with the Man In Motion project and the Abts/Carlsson team doling out work like this, one can’t help but believe that the Mule’s hiatus has been nothing but healthy for the band. In the meantime, recognize Planet Of The Abts for what it is: a powerful beast that stands on its own feet.

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