Volcano!’s third effort is gnawingly challenging. In keeping with their previous LPs, the Chicago three piece’s latest effort is, for the most part, about as accessible as an unabridged James Joyce novel read backwards. A true post-punk act, on Piñata Volcano! are completely unhinged and self-indulgent. It’s a record more akin to jazz’s most intellectually exclusive pieces than punk; most ideas are elaborated into unrecognisable obscurity, with every slightly grounded aspect spiralling out of control. Commendably experimental, but borderline elitist; Piñata is not one for the drive-time hour.
The blipping, jittering titular track opens the record as it means to continue. Complex and improvisational, the track’s Born Ruffians-esque restless vocals are interesting at first, but soon become irritatingly changeable and inconsistent in their direction. Subsequent track So Many Lemons continues in this ilk. Part Lou Reed part Devo, the track is a maniacal barrage of musical ideas that fails to take any noteworthy form. Despite better-executed instances of restlessness on the record, such as St Mary of Nazareth, too many of the tracks continue in this way; there is little respite from the constant, irritating hailstorm of yelping, jittery ADHD rock.
However, where respite is found, it is welcome. The album’s midpoint tracks, the instrumental Danceman and slow burning Fighter, are skilfully woven; providing a oasis of calm in a desert of chaotic, feverish activity. The former’s comparatively relaxed tempo and melancholic double bass and piano provide excellent introduction for the menacing Fighter, the record’s highpoint. Fighter’s lyrics are heartfelt albeit sinister, the organ well placed, the guitar solo soulful but shambolic; it becomes clear that Volcano! are a band who can be relaxed and comfortable with one another and their music.
There are elements, or at least initial signs, of greatness here, even while overall the album fails to hit its mark. Volcano! seem to be a band who are so set on making music that is impressive that they negate from the task at hand; making music that is good. A mess of ideas focused on transitions and virtuosity, the band’s incessant guitar twiddles and drum fidgets come across more as tools in some sort of crackpot musical scheme than parts of a song. Yet their originality is refreshing; here is a band that’s genuinely trying to push boundaries and change preconceptions. Their attempts may sometimes fall short, but the intentions are honourable.