Indianapolis's Grampall Jookabox (multi-instrumentalist David Adamson) exudes an unstable nerviness on Ropechain, whose 11 tracks allegedly poured out of him spontaneously. Adamson then spent a week composing and arranging the sonic deluge into these bent, uniquely hoodoo-ed pop tunes, which somehow pack in more soul than a thousand earnest white boys worshiping their James Brown boxed sets.
Light years away from Asthmatic Kitty label boss Sufjan Stevens's effete, mannered orchestral pop, Ropechain barges into earshot with "Black Girls," an outlandish, ramshackle rock ode to women of color. The next track, "Let's Go Mad Together," will likely incite said condition with its booming kick drum, wildly fibrillating analog synth, turbulent, rusty-metallic guitar solo, and Adamson's jittery scatting and entreaties to loosen the reins of sanity. Judging from these two examples, Ropechain promises to be a strange ride, and it is—at once primitive sounding and baroque.
Vivid case in point is "Old Earth, Wash My Beat." It's a bizarre gospel-blues-gamelan mélange, like Tom Waits, Dr. John, and the Godz jamming in some Louisiana backwoods shack. "We Know We Might Be Fucked" is gorgeous, moving neo-soul that's rural instead of urban. It would be a hit in a world without payola and ridiculous biases against profanity. The disc's first single, "The Girl Ain't Preggers" is a stomping, ecstatic clapathon that alludes to Sly & the Family Stone's "Dance to the Music" and reflects the urgent ambivalence one may experience over bringing another human into this doomed planet. By contrast, the uncomfortably sincere, gooey ballad "I Will Save Young Michael" tries to console the most gifted and fucked-up Jackson and coax him to dance like he used to. Jacko was unavailable for comment at press time.
Bless misfits like Grampall Jookabox who deviate from indie rock's staid status quo, and props to Stevens for releasing Ropechain.
Grampall Jookabox performs Fri Nov 14, Vera Project, 8:30 pm, $8, all ages. With PWRFL Power and the Terrordactyls.