So yeah. There's this band. It's called Gar Gar. And it's fronted by a mutant. He's half human. The other half is gar. As in, long ass fish, with long ass teeth. See http://gargar1.bandcamp.com/.
From the band's “Mutant,” we learn that Gar Gar just happened to mutate before the rest of us did. We all will – mutate. If we're lucky. Others will die in the alien attack. Some will never adapt at all. Radiation, UV rays, nuclear fallout. But survivors will share one thing in common. We'll all be gar-people. Singing songs about the mutant who saved us. Our favorite mutant war hero: Gar Gar.
It's entertaining as hell, and it's not even a concept album. A significant number of “normal” songs flesh out a complementary narrative – the dangers of contemporary society – and it's here that Gar Gar brings to mind the B-52s. The comparison is instructive: Fred Schneider could not have gotten as lyrically buck-nutty without the guitar riffs driving “Rock Lobster” and “Private Idaho.” Here too, it is Gar Gar's expressive guitar riffs that tie disparate elements into distinctive bows.
Along the way, Gar Gar takes you on a tour of guitar genres notable for their riffsmanship. Thirty seconds into Gar Gar's self-titled album, we hear the first strands of surf. With Joey Santiago on the brain, I'm reminded that early on, the Pixies were experimental too. Also, on “Meximelt666,” we get surfy tremolo picking a la Dick Dale's “Miserlou.”
“Psycho Billy” had me investigating whether it was psychobilly. I typed psychobilly into Spotify, hoping for a playlist grouped around the genre, and luckily spotted a Reverend Horton Heat song ranked highly in the search. After confirming that Horton Heat was an exemplar of the genre, I revisited my favorite album of theirs, It's Martini Time. And comparing that album's lead riff, with the spectacular riff on Gar Gar's “Psycho Billy,” it seems that Gar Gar's song-naming function is fully formed.
But the Horton Heat comparison nets additional similarities in that they both bring the funny. The Reverend did it with gems like “That's Showbiz” and, better yet, “Cowboy Love,” a song from '96 that boasted the lyrical hook (in a love song), “It's interracial cowboy homo kind of love.” The fact that Gar Gar's funny can sometimes take the form of pop culture listicles – “Just 1 Drink,” “Meximelt666” and “Ouachita” come to mind – add weight to the B-52s comparison (whose songs like “Funplex” and “Channel Z” do the same). It also places Gar Gar in the province of humor-included experiments such as my beloved Cornbugs (“Clown Smile – Death Warmed Over”). Like Gar Gar, the success of Cornbugs rested largely on spoken word (the singular vocal talents of horror actor Bill Moseley) and guitar (virtuoso shredder Buckethead).
Generally speaking then, a band can get by on spoken word and humor. It can even do so while fronted by a mutant gar. But to pull it off, it's gotta have an ace on the six-strings. And Gar Gar comes replete – with riffs to spare.
*** The author of this review, Leonard Fisher, plays the taiko for the following band: http://youtu.be/tMS73-1kCr8