Album Reviews: The Rose Has Teeth in the Mouth of a Beast by MatmosIf you're a certain kind of urban intellectual, about a minute and a half into Matmos' fifth full-length, you realize you're listening to what could be the single hippest record on Earth.
A partial list of art-cred amassed in those 90 brief seconds:
- A rickety rhythm loop constructed out of what sounds like crumpled pieces of paper being flung into a trashbin full of baby rattlesnakes.
- A pleasant Teutonic female voice reciting analytic philosophy.
- And a 5-second spoken-word cameo by Bjork.
Now dig this: The tune is called "Roses and Teeth For Ludwig Wittgenstein" -- an homage to the father of logical linguistics. Matmos dedicate the ensuing tracks to other, no less unusual cultural icons -- from would-be Andy Warhol assassin Valerie Solanas to King Ludwig II of Bavaria. With its blend of funky beats, arty electro-noodling and high-minded name-dropping, The Rose Has Teeth in the Mouth of a Beast is like a New Yorker issue you can (occasionally) dance to.
It's also, if you're predisposed to such things, a lot of fun. Matmos have always been more musical (and more just plain listenable) than the standard tech-geek circuit-benders, but their albums are rarely what you'd call "warm" or "welcoming" (one promo shot features the duo sitting on a gurney in an operating room). Yet several songs here open right up and usher you in. Most expectedly on the booty-shaking "Steam and Sequins For Larry Levan" (an ode to the seminal disco DJ), but also "Solo Buttons For Joe Meek" -- a propulsive musical profile of the oddball '60s pop producer that sounds like a short-circuiting video game strapped to a surfboard and pushed into a very groovy tsunami. There's a sense of playful good humor in these numbers that make you want to hop on and take the ride.
Longtime fans get their fair share of weirdness, of course -- like the 14-minute "Rag For William S. Burroughs," which basically condenses Naked Lunch into an endless soundscape of piano skronk, typewriter noise and Middle-Eastern bleats. It feels out of place on an album so (relatively) accessible, but maybe we wouldn't feel as smart without it. - Rico Gagliano
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