Sunday, November 16, 2008

Review: Gargamel! - Fields of Happy (2007)

Gargamel! [ Website | MySpace | Facebook ]
Fields of Happy

Orlando's Gargamel! have been creating quite a stir in the local Florida scene since coming together in 1992. Aside from naming themselves after the villainous pedophile from The Smurfs cartoon, the band is noteworthy for energetic and theatrical live shows. Blending together heavy doses of funk with liberal chunks of progressive, grind, and alternative metal, Gargamel! creates a potent elixir that goes down smooth with the help of the always tongue-in-cheek lyrics. Humor is the constant theme throughout Fields of Happy (the band's fourth and most recent studio album), as evidenced by song titles such as "Pussy Teeth", "Eat Out Of My Butt", and "Find The Prostate".

While it's not easy to pigeonhole Gargamel! into any singular category, for all their musical acrobatics they remind me a lot of bands like Infectious Grooves, Green Jelly, and The Butthole Surfers. As experimental as their sound is, it all works. "Rainy Day Fun Book" runs the gamut from straightforward metal riffing to spacey synth ambiance to 70's Hammond-inspired grooves. As at odds with one another as those pieces sound, Gargamel! makes them all play together rather nicely. Servobeonic Man's synth features as prominently as Professor Knuckle's six-string and Crazy Hector's bass, but no one element overshadows the others so the result is a very well-balanced experience on every track. Equally impressive is the chameleon-like vocal performance of frontman and band elder Mandaddy. He seamlessly transitions from hardcore barking to black metal shrieking to a pleasant croon, delivering each style admirably and with equal conviction. Some bands having two (or more) singers fail to put together a vocal performance that matches the mood of the music as well as Mandaddy does solo with Gargamel!.

Nearly every track on Fields of Happy stands out for one reason or another, whether it be the ethnically accented gutter-humor lyrics set to a 60's surf tune on "Eat Out Of My Butt", the uncredited female matter-of-factly speaking about anal sex and sticking her finger in asses on "Find The Prostate", or the Devo-like keyboard backdrop on "We've Got A Situation Here". Even though the album is just over an hour long, there really aren't any opportunities to lose interest or hit the skip button. The only real knock I can give the album is the old trick of hiding a couple of untitled songs after a multitude of "silent" tracks. I really, really hate it when bands do this. To Gargamel!'s credit, however, the 52 filler tracks total less than a minute and the untitled songs are actually worth listening to.

Fields of Happy is not an album for everyone. A somewhat skewed sense of humor is required, as well as an open mind to accept all of the various tricks and influences. Fans of the bands I mentioned above will certainly find plenty to enjoy here, and so will a lot of listeners eager to hear something a bit out of the ordinary.

Track Listing
1 Da Devil's Bawlz 5:14
2 We've Got A Situation Here 4:18
3 Cold & Twitchy 3:06
4 Favorite Friend 3:41
5 Pussy Teeth 1:43
6 Dr. Ripper, OBGYN 5:23
7 Too Much To Share 4:08
8 Knuckle's Sandwich 1:14
9 Rainy Day Fun Book 5:02
10 Party Weapon 5:23
11 Eat Out Of My Butt 1:08
12 Language Of The Knife 4:23
13 Get Up & Go! 3:45
14 Find The Prostrate 2:07
15 Papa Didn't Expect Supper 7:10
Total Runtime 1:08:01

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