roceed towards Florist Fired with caution. Though it’s an album easy enough to fall in love with, Marmoset aren’t the type that want or thrive on your adoration. The Indianapolis trio have only come out of the woodwork twice since their creation over a decade ago (thrice if you’re counting Jorma Whittaker’s bewitching solo venture), so it’s likely they’ll fuck, flee, and eventually disappear this time as well. It’s better to treat them as a one-night stand, and Florist Fired as the intangible memories of drunken kismet, coital mess, and the blurry morning after.
Marmoset is the quintessential un-band of almost-pop; unprolific, unorthodox, unforgiving, underdogs unable to show affection. Their latest is a brilliant underachievement compounding equal parts dark, motley madness and bright, childlike innocence tossed off as songs half-baked or conceived from happy accidents. That ingrained nonchalance allows them to play with the folkish, acid-eater psych of Syd Barrett on “Apples” or the droll post-punk of Wire’s Chairs Missing on the title track, with all the strings and knobs in between.
Coming from a place (the middle of the Midwest) where fun is what you make it, Marmoset force their joy and are fueled by their collective misery. Name another that could write the bouncy dirge “Eat Me Out” with a straight face, and half an album later ache that “If living doesn’t kill you / Then death will take your life.” (I’m imagining these three spend more time sitting in a velvet-lined suicide room, planting roofies in each other’s goblets of fruit punch right before the light bulbs appear above their heads.)
Their creepy charm is best manifested in Whittaker’s voice. The whispered fragility of “Luckcharm” and “Pass it Along,” is softly mangled by his wavering paranoia towards full disclosure. In his headspace or the confines of a four-track, he’s the Lennon prototype—there’s enough reverbed melody on the piano-led “Not Nice” to prove him right—but he also sounds afraid of hearing his own voice. His woozy mood swings come from purging pleasure and pain in tandem, always stumbling on the fence.
All of Marmoset’s releases, though, have been overtly mixed bags. Drummer Jason Cravan’s lone contribution, the lovable but forgettable “Das Boot,” and guitarist’s Dave Jablonski’s obtuse dub experiment “Laughing With Minx,” seem included here as a gesture similar to Sebadoh’s democratic goodwill—fortunately Florist Fired is indie-rock channel surfing that bypasses the goofy trappings of indie-rock fickleness.
Had this trilogy of albums come out in timely succession, there could be an argument that they single-handedly influenced the current trend of idiosyncratic losercore, be it Xiu Xiu, Deerhunter, or Pink Reason. Ultimately I prefer Marmoset to be anti-social hermits and dysfunctional band mates. It makes their infrequent romps through weeping sex ballads and quirky existentialist pop feel like sleeping with genius, if only for a night.
Reviewed by: Kevin J. Elliott
Reviewed on: 2007-07-30