Exposé Online banner

Surplus 1980 — Pigeon Obstacle Course
(Geomancy G1506, 2019, CD)

by Jon Davis, Published 2020-04-09

Pigeon Obstacle Course Cover art

Among Moe Staiano’s many projects is Surplus 1980, which operates in an area that might be described as “art-punk” — an energetic mix of punk rock and weirdness that has elements in common with Cardiacs (it is dedicated to Mark E. Smith) and early Devo fronted by a vocalist sounding a bit like Stan Ridgway of Wall of Voodoo. Pigeon Obstacle Course is their third full-length release, after Relapse in Response (2011) and Arterial Ends Here (2013). This time out, Staiano is joined by Bill Wolter of Inner Ear Brigade (guitar, piano, prepared guitar, various noises), Melne Murphy of Têtes Noires (guitar, glockenspiel, prepared guitar, vocals, various noises), H.L. Nelly of Naked Lights (bass, vocals), and Mark Pino of Cloud Shepherd and Dead City Shaman (drums), while Staiano himself contributes drums, percussion, vocals, noises, marimba, glockenspiel, prepared guitar, bass, and melodica. There are also guests providing trumpet and piano here and there. The music is consistently inventive in a way that could be compared to Cheer-Accident with a bit of old New York No Wave tossed in along with an anything-goes attitude. For example, the song “Question after Ended Questioned” is arranged for bass, drums, vocals, and three people banging on Bundt pans — and I suppose it’s an accomplishment that it doesn’t sound stranger than it does. The short interlude called “Perilous Night No. 4” features bass, floor tom, and three prepared guitars. Other tracks feature somewhat more conventional instrumentation, but all are performed with the same spirit of unconventional creativity, a far cry from the standards of bass, drums, guitars, and keyboards in regular song structures. Pigeon Obstacle Course (great title, by the way) is a wonderful herky-jerky blast of surprise after surprise, and a lot of fun from beginning to end.

Filed under: New releases, 2019 releases

Related artist(s): Moe! Staiano / Surplus 1980

More info

Latest news

Audion Is Back in Business – Our esteemed colleague Alan Freeman has restarted Audion Magazine after a seven year hiatus. The new incarnation is available online on their Bandcamp site. Audion's history goes back to 1984, and included 58 issues up to 2013. Issue #59 is available now, and #60 is in the works. » Read more

Romantic Warriors IV – Krautrock (Part 2) Is in the Works – Zeitgeist Media, the people who have brought us the great series of documentary films chronicling the history of progressive rock, are working on the second installment of their examination of German music. Krautrock 2 will focus on artists from Münich such as Guru Guru, Amon Düül II, Xhol Caravan, Kraan, Witthüser & Westrupp, and Popol Vuh. » Read more

Simeon Coxe RIP – Simeon Coxe, best known for his experimental electronics in the band Silver Apples, has died at the age of 82. The band's 1968 debut album set the stage for both German electronic music and experimental punk music a decade later. Coxe died on September 8 from pulmonary fibrosis. » Read more

Gary Peacock RIP – Legendary bassist Gary Peacock, veteran of many recordings and performances with Paul Bley, George Russell, Roland Kirk, Bill Evans, Tony Williams, and many more. » Read more

Tim Smith RIP – Tim Smith, leader of the eccentric band Cardiacs, has died at the age of 59 after many years of health problems. Cardiacs was known for intense and complicated music that combined punk energy with the rhythmic and harmonic sophistication of progressive rock. » Read more

Previously in Exposé...

Djam Karet - The Ritual Continues – Imagine a sound with the force and power of mid-period King Crimson, the fluidity and spaciness of Pink Floyd, and the percussive power of Peter Gabriel's Security. Throw into that mix a generous...  (1993) » Read more

Listen & discover

Print issues