The problem with starting a day with the new Oranssi Pazuzu album is that I also have to find a way to follow it. The only way I could think of credibly doing that is to shift to something as wildly different as I could find and this funky jazz rock album fit the bill, while featuring cover art that in a less kawaii translation could actually describe Oranssi Pazuzu. Mission Control hail from New Jersey, a notably musical state but not one known for this style of music, unless I'm very much mistaken. This is their debut album.
It starts its mission to get our bodies moving in impeccable style, because it's impossible not to react physically to Conquest. I was bouncing in my office chair, which is as close as you want to see me to dancing. The whole song is the definition of perky, the keyboards of Ryan Gavin adding enough lightness that we'd be forgiven for being surprised when it ends and we're not floating around in the sky. I haven't heard a riff that funky on a soft rock song since the heyday of Herbie Hancock.
Mission Control, by Mission Control, from Mission Control, does much the same thing but with a bit more jaggedness, as if it wants us to do the robot. I got a Red Hot Chili Peppers vibe from the vocals, especially during the chorus, and the song is easily funky enough for them, but it still has at least one foot in the synthpop world of the eighties synth world. Out the Window almost sounds like Toto as a dance band, but the chorus almost sounds Dylan-esque. I'd be hearing the drums echoing in the night if only the drummers weren't too busy sipping margaritas on the beach. I guess this means that there are a lot of influences at play in this musical blender.
There are only six songs on offer, but it's not a short album at forty-two minutes. The average breaker is Moonfly, the seventeen minute jam that wraps up the album while never quite feeling like a jam, as this band are just so smooth. I got seriously caught up in this one, which only feels odd because I felt that a couple of the shorter songs, like the five minute Conquest and the six minute Out the Window might have been just a little longer than they should have been. The seventeen minute Moonfly? Nah, that one's good. Go figure.
Maybe part of it is that it sums up the rest of the album in one song. It's oddly perky and laid back, as Player 2 is, and the guitar/keyboard combo gets as melodious at points. It's an indie pop songwriting challenge, wanting us not just to move our feet but listen to the words that we never quite get round to doing, just like Commuter. It has the jazzy drumming of Kevin O'Neill, just like everything here, an abiding reminder that this is improvisational at heart, even if they wrote these songs and didn't just perform them. It has the funky bass of Mission Control, Sam Luba perhaps even more notable for that than his lead vocal.
But it also has time for a guitar solo and a sample and, before we know it, we've just lost a quarter of an hour in their jam. I didn't have a problem with Luba's vocals at any point here and they're easily a highlight of a song like Mission Control, but, when they show up sixteen minutes into Moonfly as the band decides to wrap things up, we're suddenly confused as to why they want to be a vocal group.
As a wannabe chart success, they should trim down their catchy as all get out songs like Conquest and Out the Window, so they can infect the airwaves like a virus. As a set of musicians, they should switch off the mike and just jam for an hour at a time. What makes them so good is that they can be great at both approaches. I eagerly await a second album!