In the ever-expanding world of popular music, there increasingly is something to suit every taste, though certain works and styles may have a narrower appeal. For example, the strange sounds issuing forth from the experimental pop scene that orbits — at least locally — around Lawrence Welks & Our Bear to Cross and way-under-the-radar Burlington alt-venue Cheri’s Place.
Last year, Welks’ Andre Welks and Jonny Geetar unveiled a new micro-label named after their Old North End performance space, Cheri’s. The first releases from the imprint included Welks’ own EP, Judgement, as well as the debut (we think) release from Caring Babies, The Gold City Singer’s Companion Forgets.
Opinions on LW&OB2X generally fall into two distinct camps. On one side, the Burlington duo are hailed as pop-music messiahs, the unchained future of the genre. On the other, Welks are the two horsemen of the apocalypse, a deranged and unnatural affront to all things sonically holy. Caring Babies, the alter-ego of former Queen City resident Matt Mazur, may offer some common ground, existing somewhere in the space between resident B-town provocateurs Joey Pizza Slice and his mind-altered trash pop, and James Kochalka and his latter-day Game Boy Advance-fueled sonic bytes.
Companion presents a bewildering but strangely appealing mix of pop deconstruction and forward-thinking sonic exploration. In the span of a scant 23 minutes, broken into 20 fleeting vignettes, Mazur pokes and prods our collective sensibilities. He breaks down our expectations of what a pop song should be, and rebuilds those expectations into something else entirely. Not unlike the songs of label mates LW&OB2X, Mazur’s tunes are a queer abstraction of pop, almost unrecognizable yet somehow crudely familiar.
But where Welks overtly challenge listeners by fiendishly resurrecting the mangled corpses of pop conventions — often just so they can kill ’em again — Caring Babies take a gentler approach. Framed by a delicate skin of shaky synth and oddball beats and samples, a fractured heart beats at the center of Mazur’s disjointed musings on love, loss and grocery shopping. That vulnerability imparts a humanizing quality, which is especially refreshing for a genre that often scares away timid listeners. While perhaps not a sure bet for widespread crossover appeal, Companion is indeed accessible, and at times even enlightening. Furthermore, it offers a welcome entry point for those interested in Burlington’s increasingly fascinating experimental-pop scene.
The Gold City Singer’s Companion Forgets by Caring Babies is available at Burlington Records.