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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

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