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This Busy Monster



Seattle's This Busy Monster is the kind of band that derives joy from being perplexing, convoluted, even willfully obtuse, and that's what makes them great. Their songs are uneven and discordant, full of squashed structures, shifting time signatures, and damaged sounds, yet there's a great pop melody running through every one. It's a unique sound, and one that's hard to get a handle on at first. Every song ends up deliciously warped, full of moments of nervous tension and goofball nonsensical release. Bandleader Christopher Possanza's elliptical, abstract, often profoundly personal lyrics complement the band's hectic, ever-changing sound wonderfully.

Careful listening reveals the influence of some indie rock notables that also get a kick out of taking conventional pop structures and tweaking the hell out of them: you might hear echoes of Built To Spill's fractured indie rock epics, Neutral Milk Hotel's unpredictable fuzzy folk, and Thingy's bouncy, off-the-wall math pop. You could go on comparing this band to others for hours, though; like all really great new music, it reminds you of a whole bunch of different things and you're not sure why.

The band -- consisting of Possanza, bassist Josh Rosenfeld, guitarist Jason Avinger, and drummer Barrett Wilke -- got started by self-releasing a couple of cassettes in the early '90s. Then Possanza and Rosenfeld formed Barsuk Records in 1994 to release their band's material. They named the label after their dog, a black lab you can hear barking on the featured "Song 69." That song comes from This Busy Monster's 1998 debut full-length Like Icicles, as do the angular, slightly unhinged "3D'd" and the somber, delicate "Stone Wall."

In late 2000, This Busy Monster issued a five-song "preview" EP, of coming attractions to be featured on their spring 2001 full-length. The Curious Sofa possesses the same measure of offbeat humor and out-and-out bizarreness as the Edward Gorey classic for which it is named, as evidenced by the elegantly strange orchestral sweep and wry, loopy stream-of-consciousness lyrics of the album's title track (see "On the curious sofa I met a doppelganger or an octopus/Eating peaches drenched in sweet cream"). That song also appears on the LP, titled Fireworks, as does "Loup Garrou," a garrulously nonsensical banjo-happy piece which first appeared on the EP as "How Loup-Garrou Grew." Also appearing on the LP is "White Rabbit," not a cover of the Jefferson Airplane psychedelic classic, but equally as peculiar in its disjointed musings. "Gold Stop Watch," meanwhile, is a hauntingly lovely bit of restrained minimalist poetry. Fabulously strange and thoroughly original stuff.