Photo courtesy of Catacombz's Facebook page.
Pigeonholing psychedelic Milwaukee rock ‘n’ roll outfit Catacombz is a harrowing task that’s as enjoyable as it is impossible. In navigating the innards of the band’s varied discography of tapes, records and EPs, it becomes evident that the only thing consistent in Catacombz’s catalogue is its utter inconsistency. Is Catacombz the sloppy, stripped down rendition on display throughout Soul Beats? The commanding and focused force hinted at in the self-titled EP? Or is Catacombz the heady, conceptual band, which committed Mother Tongue One to tape?
Their latest effort, Mother Tongue 2, also comes via cassette tape. Moments after manually pressing “play” on a borrowed boom box to begin Catacombz’s latest unfamiliar-yet-identifiable sonic venture, Mother Tongue 2, the answer comes as a clear “yes” to all options.
Instrumental opener, “Booyea,” waffles between spacey ambiance and clean surfer licks in the course of two minutes and change before diving headlong into one of Tongue 2’s few structured offerings, “External Head Drive” – which ably combines multi-faceted and airtight percussion with incomprehensible synthesized vocals. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to decode more than half a dozen lines throughout the 50-minute, 15-song effort. Fortunately, the lack of lyrical certainty in the overtly auto-tuned lines seems to serve as another functional instrument more than anything else.
Mother Tongue 2 gets away with its meandering by way of its cassette formatting, almost forcing a straight-through listen. The near eight-minute “Long Pretty Fingers” is bookended by drastically different interludes in the calming bird chirps and held organ notes of “Lleaky” and the chants and fuzzy guitar of “Humid Hum.” Still, it works. Between the sneaky rock 'n' roll elements, the effortless emotive instrumentals and the innumerable expanses twain the two, it all works. The local music equal of bacon ice cream or wearing jeans with a suit jacket, the seemingly deliberate clashing and stylistic shoehorning employed throughout this subtle concept cassette somehow results in something functional, something effective and something enjoyable.
With Mother Tongue 2, Catacombz has done it again… even if nobody can put a finger on exactly what it is.
Catacombz plays its Mother Tongue 2 cassette release and tour send-off show tonight (Thursday) at Linneman’s Riverwest Inn alongside Outside and Soup Moat. The show starts at 9 p.m. and costs $5. Listen to three songs off Mother Tongue 2 or download a digital version of the release on the Catacombz bandcamp page.