4 out of 5
Label: Hydra Head
Produced by: Stephen Brodsky
Billed as Stephen Brodsky’s third solo album, but now upgraded with full band and production – the previous affair being 4-tracked things – Steve rightfully executes the project under a new name, the ‘Octave Museum,’ and it is all things Brodsky indulgence – lots of psychedelic wizardry; lots of Beatles influence; lots of catchy guitar riffage mapped to somewhat cheesy lyrics – but it is also perhaps the best use of those indulgences, zipped up into what’s nearly a psychedelic pop masterpiece. Y’know, if not for the wankiness that comes with such indulgence, and your tolerance of which will vary.
After the Museum collapsed, Steve would work with one of his bandmates from it – Johnny Northrup – on Pet Genius, which could be seen as a smart way of taking a half-step back and forward from the incredible (over?)reach of this disc, reincorporating a 4-track vibe but then allowing in the rock n’ roll that would shape up into, say, Mutoid Man. But the scope of Octave Museum is absolutely what makes it notable: from the zippy electro-psych weirdness of opener Voice Electric and into the incredibly catchy hooks of Sentimental Case and the acoustic pop of Kid Defender, Steve falsetto-ing all the while and constant barrages of reverbed guitar and fantasy production effects turning each track into an almost celebratory explosion of noise – while maintaining those core hooks, which you’ll be caught humming quite often – it’s clear that Brodsky has tapped into something absolutely inspired here, and perhaps the energy requirement of that is why it could only last for this single album.
Take the Cave In Jupiter-era navel-gazing sound explorations, and Steve’s solo Beatles tunes, and tune it into 70s pop-rock (a Punk News review mentions Elvis Costello, and that’s a great reference point), and you’re pretty much at this album’s m.o., but it’s still a bit weirder than that, never quite pausing on a single thought or idea. This is part of the indulgence which works for / against the album: lyrically, Steve can go deep with his eye-rolling high school poetry, but because of the escalated sound of the music, it kinda makes sense; musically, though past the midway point, it starts to feel a bit arty-for-artiness’ sake, some of that ol’ Cave In “this is serious music”ness trickling in, and shredding at the otherwise infectious, fun, poppy sound of the disc. Like, it’s silly… and then occasionally it tries to get real, and you’re just like, no, it’s okay, we liked you silly.
But it course corrects quickly. After a couple of more sober jams – that remind of very similar stuff on Perfect Pitch Black – Swingin’ in the Sky goes back to kitchen sink psychedelia, and guitar ear worms, and Brodsky getting his groove on. And it’s pretty damn glorious.