The Hackensack Dilemma
Flotsam & Jetsam
ary Lychee has finally, with his third album as The Hackensack Dilemma, stepped out of the shadow of his former band into luminescent new green pastures of sound and light and light and sound. His time as lead guitarist (and occasional harmonium player / video director / choreographer) in Paradise Rotisserie has sat like an emaciated albatross tied to a ball and chain around his neck, weighing him down like concrete shoes in a bag full of kittens tossed harmlessly into the river of the music industry, making him sink like a stone gently skimmed across the calm, flat, azure pond of neo-psychedelic post-pop hip-rot grunge-slop.
Where Paradise Rotisserie swam through the murky waters of indie-crunk garage-jazz drunk’n’base like a turbo-charged Duncan Goodhew loaded with nitro-glycerine and smoking the bongpipe at a debauched May Day Country Fair, The Hackensack Dilemma have thus far faltered like a chicken given a set of false nails and some eyeliner and told to tart itself up for market so it looks like Michael Stipe in the video for “Crush With Eyeliner” (which was, of course, a strong visual influence on the band’s notable and cromulent stage-aesthetic, along with Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon, Chris Marker’s Sans Soleil, Robert Zemeckis’ Roger Rabbit and Tom Savini’s make-up effects from Dawn Of The Dead). Needless to say, Lychee’s first two long-players under his new and wildly controversial nomenclature (who can forget the vitriolic debates that spouted across internet messageboard communities populated by rapid hipster tweenagers when the eponymous debut album was titled The Hackensack Dilema with only one ‘m’, eh?) sailed beneath the Pabst-sponsored ‘cool’ radar of the illegitimate and chattering classes, who instead took favour with the surreptitious sonic sleepovers of The Moonshine Hummingbird (lead, of course, by Paradise Rotisserie’s other guiding light, Darren Wilde). Many commentators singled out Lychee’s over-reliance on the Jew’s Harp as a lead instrument, and his favouring of Polka rhythms speeded up using modern day technological tape-loops and tube-gassing techniques, as being alienating to fans of drunk’n’base who had grown up accustomed to less avant-futurist pawn-shop meanderings.
There’s nothing here that will surprise those who managed to download the never-released fragrances of Lychee’s near-mythical Elephant Man Jumpsuit project (which, lest we forget, featured the talents of Zak Starkey, Ian Mackaye, Kevin Shields and Betty Boo); indeed Flotsam & Jetsam could be said to resemble a small, forest-dwelling cousin of that sadly-neglected album, perhaps with long whiskers and a bushy tail, not unlike a marmoset crossed with a squirrel only given to a cold-eyed desire for the feast of manflesh. “Pop-Eyed Child” even cops the zither riff from “Out Of The Ocean Crawls The Dingbat”; only this time the minor key Sabbath-tribute motif is fashioned to a more jaunty shape, not unlike a small transparent footstool of Scandinavian design. The liberal use of a kitten’s meow during “Holla Holler Fellatio” demonstrates a greater willingness to engage with the natural world’s more thrillingly domesticated aspects, adding to a sense of synaesthetic wonder first engendered by the sound of Lychee cutting-up a 30-second strip of DAT tape into tiny squares and then gluing it back together at right angles so that bandwidth and volume are inverted into a kaleidoscopic neutron-microscope of not-sound joy-chaos in 13-minute album closer “Notalot”. Credit must go to Marlon Castle, the second assistant production engineer on this record, and a man who I once met outside a nightclub in Pontefract during a particularly harrowing incident of kitchen-showroom violence, though I am not sure why.
At the end of the day one occasionally genius amplification whistle with step in night driven down nuclear fallout fallout fallout bus shelter propensity landscape at seven given witches filmic boat race good catch, but I am inclined to overlook these potential faults and see them as a stepping stone, or bridge, or shortcut, or small portcullis being raised by hamsters bound to slavery in ivory Dutchman Dutchman Dutchman gigabyte wolf marsupial jug. And if you believe that, you’ll believe anything.
Reviewed by: Nick Southall
Reviewed on: 2004-04-01