BETTER LATE THAN NEVER: AXL REVIEWS IWABO’S IT’S ALL HAPPENING
If I had the world’s worst case of ADHD and one day accidentally swaped out my prescription meds for something much more highly hallucinogenic and considerably less legal, the ensuing fever dream might play out a little like Iwrestledabearonce’s first full-length, It’s All Happening.
And I mean that as a compliment.
This band comes pretty distinctly from the “Hey let’s just play whatever the hell pops into our collective brain at any given moment” school of songwriting. IWABO’s most obvious sonic predecessor might be Genghis Tron’s Cloak of Love, but their spiritual predecessor would be more akin to Mr. Bungle. Like that band, some of their key characteristics include not only a desire to perfectly execute every style of music ever created for at least fifteen to twenty seconds of the record, but a refusal to take themselves too seriously, even if they’re taking the music seriously. (Of course, this is the 21st century and IWABO are a grind band at heart, so rather than letting each song be performed in a different style as Bungle might have, IWABO just cram as many styles as possible into a four or five minute period.)
IWABO are often weird, and seemingly for no better reason than that to be weird amuses them. That can often have the effect of pissing people off, and I can see where the group’s willingness to get silly wit it might be irritating, if they weren’t so damn good at it. What separates IWABO from other bands trying (and failing) at a similar game is the artfulness of the transitions. There’s a sense of geography to the way everything progresses, so you never feel lost amidst the tornado of chaos.
Sometimes the slapstick quality of the whole conceit can be a little too much. It’s one thing to have a car horn signal an impending breakdown (the already infamous “Tastes Like Kevin Bacon”) or have a horse neigh for a similar effect (album opener “You Ain’t No Family”), but to do both seems a little redundant. And the band shows so much creativity elsewhere, you gotta suspect that they probably could have come up with something a little cooler.
But for the most part, this album works – like, really works. A lot of the credit lies with vocalist Krysta Cameron, who resists the urge to match the band’s zaniness with “funny” or “clever” lyrics, instead interpreting the band’s schizoid tendencies as an opportunity to excercise anxious fever dreams. The song titles may be Looney Toons-ish, but the lyrics, as far as I can tell, are deadly serious. To be honest, I don’t always understand what Cameron is getting at when she sings lines such as “Why do I find pieces of your teeth on piano keys?”, but if she’s joking, it’s some Andy Kaufman shit and it’s going way over my head.
Ultimately, it’s going to up to IWABO to prove to the world that they’re not just part of some passing trend, but I’m confident they can do it as long as they keep making albums as interesting as It’s All Happening. Whatever else you wanna accuse them of, you can’t say they’re just doing the same-old same-old.
(four outta five horns)