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Know Your Product: Nuclear Power Pants, Wicked Eats the Warrior (Wham City)

September 24, 2009
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In the mid-1990s, Nuclear Power Pants would have been lucky to snag a third-string indie stage gig on selected Lollapalooza dates. In the late-’90s, they might’ve found themselves opening for the Make-Up, Olivia Tremor Control, or Love As Laughter. Today, at the twilight of the penny-pinching ’00s, this daffy, nomadic octet—formed in New York in 2003, only to dissolve and reconstitute itself in noise-fuck haven Providence, RI, two years later, then emigrate in dribs and drabs to Baltimore—is sensibly issuing its debut in a vinyl edition of 500 on a young, local label with Pitchfork-approved cachet to spare.

Wicked Eats The Warrior (Wham City) is a no-gray-area proposition—you’ll gulp the LSD-spiked NPP Kool-Aid or you’ll run away screaming—something the band can’t help but be aware of. Each of these eight party jams is a warping, Salvador Dali-surreal glob of sneering synth fuckery and dinky, Dark Meat-esque noisemaking, with gang choruses led by vocalists R.M. O’Brien and the aptly named Benjamin Beast, who seems to be perpetually stuck in the throes of a nervous breakdown.

Each song aims to outdo every other song in terms of intentionally awkward lyricism and overall obnoxiousness: check the gospel yeh-yeh-on-Quaaludes dreck of “Got Soul, Need Body,” which comes across as a disavowed Black Mountain D-side, or the desire expressed in stilted irritant “Uh Oh” to “live in the eagle’s throat, so wet, so dark, and so warm.” Or Scooby-Doo drunk “Graveyard,” with its insidiously strong mash-note bass line ruined by tornado bloops and bleeps. “I’m not a nuclear fluke/ I’ve got a bad reputation as a really cool dude,” Beast mock-incants on “Partytime U.S.A.” as if auditioning for the soundtrack of a straight-to-internet Attack of the Killer Tomatoes remake. “Screwdriver” girds psych-ward Mad-Libs and broiling, insufferable sound effects to a bullheaded “Pete Gunn” bass hook.

There’s probably a wealth of laughter in and around Nuclear Power Pants HQ, but whether Wicked inspires more knowing, in-on-the-joke guffaws than derisive, dismissive snorts remains to be seen.

Nuclear Power Pants play Floristree Sept. 26. For more information visit myspace.com/floristree.

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