Phideaux. His unique musical stylings occupy a zone of their own and he’s a pretty productive artist. He is, in fact, so productive that while I was getting settled in the Lone Star State (and therefore not writing for the DV) over the last eight months he sent me TWO new CDs. Phideaux, buddy, this is overachieving a little, isn’t it?
All joking aside, though, his new-but-one CD Chupacabras is worth a long, hard look, and I admit I didn’t review it the first time I heard it because it is an ambitious, iconoclastic work. Chupacabras is Phideaux and his usual partners in crime – Mark Sherkus on piano, Gabriel Moffat on bass and sound textures, Rich Hutchins on drums, Ariel Farber, Valerie Gracious, and Sydney and Devon Moffat on backing vocals, and various other family members and friends of the Bloodfish musical collective -- cleaning out their closet, recording a few songs that for one reason or another didn’t make the cut on his first two CDs, Fiendish and Ghost Story, as well as a few other oddities. It’s hard enough to quantify Phideaux’s normal releases; when you consider that Chupacabras is the stuff he thought didn’t fit in with the other stuff, it’s even harder.
That said – there are some very tasty moments on Chupacabras, and a couple of moments I just couldn’t quite swallow. The bad first: I just cannot warm to the song cycle “Ruffian On The Stairs” and “Return of The Ruffian”. Its harsh sound and disjointed lyrics just don’t do anything for me.
The good, though…”Titan” is rich, lyrical, layered, and absolutely brilliant, with some intense, incisive lyrics. “Sunburnt” is dark and textured, its whispering vocals acting as an eerie counterpoint to the minor-key melody. The twenty-minute “Chupacabras” is straight-ahead progressive rock, and Phideaux and company do a wonderful job with it. My favorite by far, though, is the ironic and obsessive “Party,” an incredible collaboration between Phideaux and the truly disturbed-sounding Valerie Gracious -- if Phideaux asks you over to his house, I strongly recommend you ask what time you’ll be allowed to leave.
Is Chupacabras a great CD? No, but outtake and extra track CDs rarely are. It is, however, a great look at a truly original artist and has some incredible songs on it. I heartily recommend it. And watch this space for a review of 313, Phideaux’s latest studio CD, very soon; I need to get to it before he puts out ANOTHER CD.
[To order Chupacabras, check out www.bloodfish.com]