Marijuana Deathsquads - Oh My Sexy Lord

by Rich Morris Rating:8 Release Date:2014-01-20

This work of extreme, sometimes deeply unsettling electro-psych combines the pitch-shifted vocals of The Knife and the industrial-accident techno of Crystal Castles with myriad other influences, often to bewildering, dizzying affect.

First track, the brilliantly named ‘Ewok Sadness’ opens with a brief snatch of radio-friendly, old-timey gospel crooning before dense electronics and curdled, genderless vocals take over. The mood is oppressive and menacing until suddenly clattering live drums kick in and the whole shebang erupts into a vicious din that sounds like Throbbing Gristle collaborating with experimental jazz band Polar Bear. So, obviously, completely awesome. There’s even a superfluous bit of scratching, like Marijuana Deathsquads are trying to be Limp Bizkit but are just too damn mental and talented.

This Minneapolis super-group, featuring members of Bon Iver, Gayngs and Har Mar Superstar – are apparently fond of improvisation, but it doesn’t really show. The likes of Krautrock-meets-death-disco freak-out ‘Crosstown Crippler’ are devoid of fat, without a rambling bout of fret-wankery in earshot. When they do get a little Daft Punk electro-proggery on ‘Sunglasses and Bail Money’, it works precisely because it’s so unexpected.

Tracks bleed into each other, none of them following anything approaching a traditional verse-chorus structure, so it’s sometimes hard to sum up what an individual track actually sounds like. Take, for example, ‘Stacks’, on which luscious cosmic disco vibes explode into wind-tunnel, Boredoms-style space-punk amid much screaming and gibbering. Or ‘Goldan’, which sounds like Death Grips jamming with Hawkwind and a brass band.

Sometimes you wish they’d stretch their good ideas out a little bit. Most bands would squeeze two long tracks out of, say, the way ‘Dissolve’ starts off frenetic and then, yes, dissolves into Tangerine Dream ambience. Marijuana Deathsquads crack through it in a couple of minutes. Several tracks here don’t trouble the three-minute-mark and several others are so bursting with ideas they barely hold together long enough to form anything intelligible.

Another aspect which will turn some off this record is the total lack of lightness. Even Oh My Sexy Lord’s quiet moments are thick with suppressed violence. It’s probably not an album you’ll play from beginning to end that often.

But, really, when a band puts itself as far out there as Marijuana Deathsquads do on this album, fuck any petty criticisms. You just have to stand back and applaud. While Coldplay continue to exist, this band deserve your attention and your total respect.               

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