101 Crustaceans is a new band uniting some names that may be familiar to you: Ed Pastorini on vocals, guitar, and piano, Indigo Street on electric guitar and vocals, Oren Bloedow on bass and vocals, and one of my favorite drummers, Ben Perowsky. Train Bolt Roller (Riot Act) sounds like the origins of a machine starting up, finding out how its insides fit in with one another, and along the way we hear levels of well executed music that will lead people to realize that this machine is well oiled as is. Even though you may know the works of the individuals in this band, throw all of that out and put all of your faith in their capabilities. Ed Pastorini’s voice changes throughout the album, sometimes a few times within the same song, so you may hear John Lennon on the top, Karl Wallinger in the middle, with David Bowie creeping up during the choruses, and a pinch of Rupert Hine to wrap things up nicely. Musically, he and 101 Crustaceans will get into acoustic mode, rough it up as if they are galloping stallions, and unexpectedly create some noise that could easily put them in the indie/alternative rock categories. That would be a lazy way of doing it, but it’s one way of saying that this is the kind of music you’re not going to hear snuggled alongside whatever is in the Top 40 now.
The music goes through different emotions and textures, sure to excite those who don’t want to hear a band be comfortable with dormancy. The lyrics will definitely challenge the listener, for while you may hear about certain people being out of place, or places being out of reach, you’re not quite sure at first to take them at face value or allow the lyrics to drift in your mind before you choose to leave them up for interpretation each time. Train Bolt Roller is an album that doesn’t exactly pull you in upon first listen, but with each passing song, you don’t realize how deep you’re immersed in their creations until its too late.
Pastorini’s voice could lead to some mean chills up your spine, so when Street comes in with an occasional solo vocal or blends hers with Pastorini, it adds more depth into what they do. Bloedow’s bass playing is that punch that can turn the band’s gloomier sounds into a darkness undetermined, and when he adds deeper hollowness into Pastorini’s piano work, it’s haunting. Then you have Perowsky, always brutal when he plays in a jazz setting but showing even more versatility in this context, which might help cross him over to audiences who need to hear what this man is all about.
Another way to describe this music would be to say that if you have admired the works of John Zorn’s Tzadik label, but wish you could find something a bit more accessible, you might want to check out Train Bolt Roller. It still holds on to being eclectic for the sake of wanting to be as distant as possible from everyone, but still showing that they understand song construction that will appeal to fans of adventurous pop and rock. That in itself is rooted in everything from jazz to blues, gospel to different ethnic folk traditions, all of which results in something that will startle and excite anyone who doesn’t want to hear the dead formulas. Or one could say this sounds like the resurrection of discarded souls whose voices were only silenced by time and decay. May they speak proudly and loudly once again.
(Train Bolt Roller will be released sometime this fall or winter.)