Sick Bees

My Pleasure (Up Records)

For the better parts of rock history, a variety of jokers have gone to great lengths to prove just how deranged they are, whether they bit the heads off of doves, waved their penises around on stage or murdered a junkie girlfriend.

Maybe that's why the Sick Bees' understated imbalance comes off so believably on My Pleasure. Without resorting to the usual musical tricks or publicity stunts to prove its depravity, the two-piece outfit slinks through an album only partially informed by the rational world. The songs move from startling, angular highs to chilly lulls faster than a Thorazine kick-in.

Though the Bees dabble with the same rowdy arrangements and flailing dynamics as many punk and emo outfits, My Pleasure isn't the typical jaunt through blazing post-rock. Cold and often unpredictable, the Bees' songs provide a sense of menace that their sonic cousins can't match. They combine rattling, jangly guitars with a stone-faced bass line ("Saint Helen's"), utilize samples and a mad-hornet guitar ("Work It"), and offer a disordered blend of punk's rough-around-the-edges aesthetic and quirky, sometimes disturbing, experimentalism.

Singers Starla and Julio both alternate between a nasal whine and a throaty howl that's at times reminiscent of L7's Donita Sparks. Throw in a knack for truly unnatural lyrical content and things just get stranger. Songs like "Tool Room" and "Fishnet" feature a near-maniacal sensuality that could allude to either sex or violence, while "Amen" offers frantic, desperate growls of "Sing hallelujah" and "Sing unto the Lord."

There's no need for Sick Bees to fling used tampons into an audience or piss on the Alamo to prove its madness quotient; My Pleasure does that all by itself. Yet while unmistakable shadows of dementia make this album burst with gloriously depraved flavors, it's also saddled with a passion too intense for everyday enjoyment. Regular spins just might drive you crazy.

 
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