Good lord that’s a disgusting cover.
However, this is my new favourite opening line to a last.fm profile:
It started as a one-man band in wels, upper-austria, when Raumschiff Engelmayr, outfitted with guitar, drumcomputer and vacuum cleaner released a CD with a 600g handmade steelcover and began playing concerts disguised as space-indian.
Of course it did.
I listened to the latest Bulbul album (their first in 6 years, and the first I’ve ever heard) without knowing they’d been around for a while and one thought immediately came to mind: Austrian Tomahawk. I have no idea if Engelmayr is a big Mike Patton fan or not (though I’d be willing to bet my favourite kidney that he is) and either way it’s probably unfair to reduce a band’s work to a two word phrase, especially when the band I’m using as comparison wasn’t actually around when Bulbul formed. However opener Fire sounds like it would fit into a Tomahawk record extremely well – it’s a straight ahead fast past rock number littered with Patton-esque tics (the megaphone distorted vocals and low groans being his go-to weird noises), as would standout track Quicksand for similar reasons. Crucially though both actually sounds more interesting than anything on Tomahawk’s last half baked outing Oddfellows.
Which is how they got my attention.
However after Fire it goes…well, all over place. There’s some perplexing genre hopping going on, including a few ill-advised stabs at early Beck-esque slacker rap (Uhu & I hea eh scho lang nix). And lyrically it’s, well, mostly woeful when it’s in English – but to be fair I’ve heard much worse from bands who don’t have English being a second language as an excuse. I’ve no idea if it fares better on the tracks sung in Austrian, but frankly they couldn’t be much worse. Crucially though it fares much better musically – Kanzla, a lengthy, almost Krautrock-esque meditative exercise in repetition elevated by some fine drum work reminds me a little of the Skull Defekts – only without their strict adherence to a stripped back and austere aesthetic. Then there’s Gurdy, a gleeful, mischievous zebedeee bounce of a song (which to be honest reminds me a little too much of Boom by Flight of the Conchords for comfort – not that I don’t love Boom but that’s a comedy song where as I think Gurdy is attempting to be a serious song which happens to be funny). Sure, in between the album dips with with Fisole, an incomprehensible sluice of avant guard noise, but that’s what the skip button was invented for. And it’s worth sticking around to get to the wild eyed, deranged scrawl of Genderman Can, which is reminiscent of the hacked up Jesus Lizard style post-hardcore of Daughters. And they save the best for last: the album peaks as it ends with two slow, malicious numbers – the cut up slide guitar crawl of Bomb and the slithering menace of A to Beans. Again it’s hard not to think of Tomahawk here – but both would have fit neatly onto Mit Gas. And to their credit both would be welcome additions.
If you knew how much I love Mit Gas you’d know how much of a complement that is.
So to say the least it’s something of an inconsistent listen. They remind me of bands like Sleepytime Gorilla Museum or Dog Fashion Disco – bands who love to entertain almost as much as they love to confuse, happy to take a song in any direction they can to keep the listener on their toes – occasionally to the detriment of otherwise excellently put together songs/records. And so, much like those bands, Hirn fein hacken makes for a listen that frustrates as much as it intrigues. There’s a hell of a lot to like, but you might want to be judicious in the use of the skip button to get the most out of it. Hirn fein hacken translates from German to Get your brain chopped into pieces – Bulbul’s strange brew is perhaps not quite potent enough to dice up your mind but it will slap it around a bit – which is a lot more fun than it sounds.