Alien-baby vocal phaser, check. Underwater flanger, check. Four SF Bay Area musicians melting down their collective experiences from a flurry of substantive groups such as Bottles and Skulls, Fleshies, Lower Forty-Eight and Victim’s Family into a single, righteous offering to the lords of punk; check. Commence rock.
With a battalion of wailing guitars, pounding drums and epic bass lines, Triclops!’s Out of Africa is like a George Clinton album on a bad acid trip, or a face-melting love child begotten by a one-night stand between the Mars Volta and Jello Biafra then raised by Perry Farrell. It’s a prog-rock, acid-punk dream with the tightest rhythm section you’ve ever heard, and it releases on you unforgivingly.
Following up their acclaimed 2006 Cafeteria Brutalia EP on Sickroom, Out of Africa has nothing to do with Isak Dinesen, nor with Paul Simon, Africa or any other affiliation with world music, but rather concerns itself with savage megablasts to the skull, reverbed guitar progressions, and ranting, raving lyrics that stay in keeping with their parent label, Alternative Tentacles, without becoming bogged down by finger-pointing politics. When you can even understand what the singer is saying, that is.
It’s time for the rundown: track one, savage. Track two, savage. And then we get to “Freedom Tickler” — “Americans can see from our lofty SUVs/ to survey all the freeways we command/ Individuals all/ so rugged and so tall/ is full of blood and guns and Adderrol./ I am one I wont deny it,/ if I want it I will buy it/ I don’t even need to like it/ it is there so I must try it/ I am so hungry!” Johnny No Moniker croons through an on-again off-again underwater vocal flanger effect before Christian Erik breaks into a riff so uncannily reminiscent of At the Drive-In that you have to bite your tongue not to leap into an Enfilade breakdown of “freight freight train coming!”
The subsequent “Duende War” features an anthemic intro worthy of head-banging praise as it breaks down into another consistently epic Triclops! drum line joined by Johnny’s ragged and exasperated shouts. With “Cassava,” the album takes a more serious turn, the vocals becoming an exorcism of apocalyptic anguish.
The penultimate track, “Secret 93,” is an exemplarily-crafted song as far as acid-punk goes, while the album’s finale, “Lovesong For The Botfly,” begins with a gentle interlude that grows and flowers into a pounding beat but winds down with a surprisingly emotional closing out of left field as Johnny emotionally cries to the botfly, “You don’t need love! I wish I were you”; not the strongest punch-in-the-gut ending you might have expected from the 40-minute buildup, but lord, they’re probably exhausted and so am I.
With subtle post-hardcore leanings, one may notice how Triclops! pulls from the ’90s Touch and Go catalogue of Big Black, The Jesus Lizard etc., though it’s refreshing to hear a group so uncompromising in their sound, even if it is twinged with a throwback. Is it perfect? No, but it’s not supposed to be, it’s punk. If they’re here to savagely rock then they’ve succeeded — their live show will bash in your head and rock your brain raw. But if they’re trying to blaze a new trail of post-hardcore acid-punk, then they’ve got to kick it into over-overdrive. They have to move from heroic to warped: Give me more baby-alien vocals, louder amps, and more flangers. Can you hear me, Triclops? Turn up the reverb and forge bravely onward deep into the dark recesses of prog-rock/punk-rock hell and serve it up fresh to each and every young’un across the land. I dare you.