Something of a supergroup, with members of Gayngs, Poliça and Doomtree and on this album, a guest spot from Bon Iver main man Justin Vernon too, Marijuana Deathsquads is one of those rare examples where the results are actually worthy of the term “super”. They’ve made something of a reputation for themselves as a live act, with shows bludgeoning audiences whilst also encouraging wild orgies of dancey abandon.
Sometimes appearing with four drummers, and occasionally stretching song arrangements out beyond the 20 minute mark, part of their appeal is their apparent willingness to push sounds and performances to the limit. As a live band, they’re an unconfined beast that embraces feel, and acts on impulse. Transferring such vibrancy to the limits of studio and the confines of an album can be a tricky process, stripping away what makes a band like Marijuana Deathsquads so exciting.
Yet somehow, Oh My Sexy Lord manages to preserve the unhinged brilliance of the band and run with it. To some degree, it’s an album that works best as a single lump of genre pulverising sonic perversity. There are songs, naturally, but it’s really more of an undulating and somewhat unnerving call to dance from beginning to end.
Marijuana Deathsquads do like to infuse their songs with an irresistible beat, an itch that simply has to be scratched. Yet simply providing straight up, feel good dance tunes isn’t in their DNA. Instead, there are layers of disconcerting noise, distorted vocals, and electronic howls that inject a genuine sense of unease into all their songs. If there’s any influence at work here, then it could be traced back to the Butthole Surfers‘ earliest work, hints of Holy Fuck, and the little curiosity shop that is Sabres Of Paradise’s Haunted Dancehall. In essence, Marijuana Deathsquads want you to dance; by all means dance, but do so looking over your shoulder.
Kicking off with Ewok Sadness, a song whose first few seconds sound like a Muppet wake, it’s evident that Marijuana Deathsquads inhabit a peculiar otherworld. Creepy and menacing initially, it explodes into life around the midpoint in spectacular fashion. A rumble of frantic drums, electro and cavernous pulsing bass, it’s simply mindboggling. So, it’s practically impossible to decipher Isaac Gale’s heavily processed and pitchshifted vocal lines, but it hardly matters; they just add to the sonic assault.
Crosstown Crippler keeps the tempo up, storming along like a feral ’80s cop theme tune, which is apposite because that leads into the slightly more ambient Sunglasses And Bail Money, a song that could happily feature in a dark re-imagining of Miami Vice. Dissolve and Stacks fully indulge in ambient washes and electro pulses, giving a little respite from the sheer intensity to be found elsewhere on the album. The occasional vocal explosions that punctuate the end of Stacks benefit from the change in mood that preceded them, making the wired delivery seem totally unhinged and dangerous.
Bad Boy Masterpiece changes direction again, throwing a little glitch on top of dancehall influences and terrifying dynamic shifts. 8 9 3 taps into woozy Aphex Twin territory before shifting into a militaristic shuffle that once again hits home beautifully. Goldan sits back a little, happy to indulge in a looselimbed lope before ratcheting up the drum rolls and the synth solos. The album closes with the electro-punk of Vibrant Beast, and insistent bass driven classic that lets a little light in.
Oh My Sexy Lord is not an easy album to break down. It’s really designed to be consumed in one awesome lump, an electro-odyssey that unsettles and delights in equal measure. Surely Deathsquads shouldn’t be this much fun.