Imagine the geeky married couple that made up Timbuk3 in the 80's sitting in on the recording of "Trout Mask Replica," with someone from the future telling everyone about ambient pulses, and you just might be able to imagine this record. Melody and harmony are thickened with the occasional quirky, almost jug-band jitters, but you can still keep singing along. Ambition and fun mix well on ?Magic Teeth?, ?Eureka?, and ?Famous Hero.? Only rarely does the band approach anything consistently sinister, but this is no quirky animal at heart; this record hints at larger prey down the road.
Magic, as well as the Magic Band, figure prominently in these odd jams. Guitar, trombone, vibes, electronic soundscapes, and drums form a meaty collage that challenges and disappoints, like the best rock should. Drummer Mike McCurdy anchors not only the sound but the ambition. Beneath the jagged lines than threaten to burst into full Oingo-Boingo, are rhythms and fills that remind the listener that digging deep into each song is the only way to find treasures like his beats.
Guitarist Ben Lanz steps in midway through the best songs to take them to new levels. ?Hollow Buttons?, the longest track, ambles from ambient to angular, the latter courtesy of Lanz?s Wire/D. Boon-esque lines; On ?Evildoer?, his expanding riffs compete with trombone, which adds in both menace and vision.
Sometimes there is only the quirky, as on ?Captain Waltz? or ?Magic Teeth.? Nothing against Math-rock?well ok, maybe a few things?but compared to other tracks and to the hints of what is to come, tracks like these seem throw-aways.
But it is the layered, broad freedom of the record that lingers. This is a great band that tried to cover a lot of territory, and found a few new dirt roads along the way. A few dung piles along the way is a small price to pay for exploration. 8/10 -- Mike Wood (10 July, 2006)