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The Halo Benders



They call it basement punk: a freewheeling combination of good ideas, great musicians, and a sense of humor. In 1993, K Records/Beat Happening/Dub Narcotic Sound System/Man About Olympia Calvin Johnson and Built To Spill guitarist/wordsmith Doug Martsch gathered up some pals (including Pell Mell member and producer extraordinaire Steve Fisk, Treepeople/Violent Green drummer Wayne Flower, and former Built To Spill/Sone/The Feelings star Ralph Youtz), went into Johnson's basement, and recorded God Don't Make No Junk (K, released in 1994). The record is instantly engaging, whimsical, and brimming with talent. Over the next four years, they recorded two more albums: 1996's more subtle Don't Tell Me Now and 1998's lush The Rebel's Not In (both on K).

If indie rockers had their own dance club, the Halo Benders would be the house band, and "Don't Touch My Bikini," (from God Don't Make No Junk) would be the most-requested song. With its simple, catchy guitar hook and silly springing sound effects, it's an off-kilter sing-along dance party waiting to happen. Johnson and Martsch create a giddy, charming almost-harmony featuring a laundry list of ridiculous images (who else could get away with rhyming "bake a cookie" with "get some nookie?") and a funky beat.

"Virginia Reel Around the Fountain," from The Rebels Not In, has a more densely layered sound, featuring both grandiose, psychedelic Built to Spill-style guitar and funky, slippery Dub Narcotic Sound System-esque bass. However, the silliness remains, as Johnson ruminates about a "savage cabbage leaf" in his rumbling deadpan bass, and Martsch suggests, "Don't say you know, just say you don't know."

Even after three records, The Halo Benders remain an on-again, off-again side project for all parties involved. Let's just hope that the inspiration strikes again soon!