(Self-released, digital download)
Uncertain how to navigate 2012? Fear not! Guides for the Future will show you the way. Their sophomore effort, Dansicola, plays like a guidebook for days to come, complete with advice on how to survive the impending Zombie Apocalypse (“Apocalypse Army”), a pulling back of the curtain on a failing political system (“Politician”) and a spread-the-word, the-end-is-already-here soapbox sermon decrying an overpopulated world (“Push Then Shove Then Free).
The vehicle for this audio almanac is a hodgepodge of decidedly unpoppy and underproduced songs born of a trio of musicians who clearly go wherever the music takes them. Hold on to your tinfoil helmets, folks.
Ready to meet your Guides? Great. There’s guitarist and lead vocalist Robb Spensley — a Vermont native — who seems to delight in taking the chord progression less traveled and sings in an unremarkable but competent and unaffected voice. Tommy Bobcat holds down the low end on bass, though it would be unfair to call his a supporting role. There’s more than a little Primus and Chili Peppers in Bobcat’s slap-happy style, and his songwriting contributions are reflected in the numerous tracks where his four strings stand out against the controlled chaos. Cale Williamson whacks away on the skins, somehow managing to match each schizophrenic section with just the right beat, occasionally hovering over Spensley’s lyrics in choice harmony.
With a spirited mix of genres and styles as well as topics, the Dansicola recipe could read as follows: spirit of Zappa; equal parts prog, punk and psychedelic; a cup of witty commentary and a dash of indifferent delivery. Mix well(ish). It might not result in sonic succulence, but the charm and mystery in these songs keeps you coming back for more. It’s like taking yet another bite of a strange dish to identify an unknown flavor. What is that I’m hearing?
It’s fitting, too, that these three call themselves “guides.” For as lost as they get in each song’s random meanderings, they usually find their way back: returning to the opening bass-guitar-cowbell riff at the end of the punchy “Piece of Me.” Revisiting a slightly altered, spaced-out head-bang sequence at the start of the jam “Don Juan.”
Of course, they don’t always make it back. What starts off as a soft and ballad-like “we need to talk” buddy-love song on “Nobody Said” — “You and me brother been friends a long time / but I’m not going to let your struggles become mine” — transforms into a raucous rant more akin to a parent’s stern talk with a pouting progeny: “Nobody said life would be fair / and nobody said that your neighbors would share.”
Nobody said Guides for the Future would get you there every time, either. But sometimes getting lost is half the adventure. And there’s plenty of getting lost to be done in Dansicola.
Dansicola is available for digital download at guidesforthefuture.com.