Release Date: Oct 15, 2013
Record label: Burnside Distribution
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Electronic, Noise-Rock
Marijuana Deathsquads are Minneapolitan producer Ryan Olson’s //other// supergroup, featuring many of the same faces – Har Mar Superstar and Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon included – who appeared on Gayngs’ excellent 2010 debut, ‘Relayted’. Yet whereas that record adhered to a strict soft-rock dogma, ‘Oh My Sexy Lord’ is all over the shop, ricocheting from glitchy electronica to feral noise-rock via lysergic ambience without much in the way of reason or rhyme, resulting in a perverse, discombobulating jumble of ideas that somehow hangs together coherently. Whether listening to them or foolhardily attempting to describe them, there’s little about Marijuana Deathsquads that’s easy, but that doesn’t make their third LP any less rewarding.
With the alarm barely piercing open the bleary eyes of 2014 the year may already have one of its most challenging and invigorating listens. Marijuana Deathsquads is the sound of music collapsing in on itself, a violent contraction of swirling synths, completely disfigured vocals and drumming at a breakneck speed. For something so very clearly digital, it sounds terrifically primal.
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.
If first-era psychedelic music was intended to evoke the mind-expanding sounds and feelings of an LSD trip, the genre-defying sound of Marijuana Deathsquads suggests what it's like to be dosed with something and not know exactly what it is. The experience isn't always unpleasant, but there's something at once fascinating and just a little uncomfortable about the twists and turns this music takes, as slinky dance pulses slip gears into random thuds and squeaks, synthetic melodies give way to unformed aural chaos, crashing drums face off against clattering rhythm loops, and vocals processed within an inch of their lives howl and squeal like an argument between enchanted elves and the demons of the underworld. While the playfully sinister racket Marijuana Deathsquads conjure on their first full-length album Oh My Sexy Lord has some clear pre-electronic antecedents -- the stoner experimentation of Ween's early work, the lysergic assault of the Butthole Surfers, and the vocal and musical shape-shifting of the Residents -- the glorious perversity of Oh My Sexy Lord is that these guys have taken these musical peaks and valleys and tried to make folks dance to them all.
Although this Minneapolis noise band's name suggests they have put their energies into coming up with something to give small boys a chuckle, their full-length debut demands much more attention. Known for chaotic, spectacular live shows featuring evolving lineups, 20-minute long songs and numerous drummers, they have channelled their ideas into a distinctive musical rollercoaster. This genre-busting voyage hurls in everything from dark psychedelic electronic drum'n'bass to pastoral progressive rock.
It’s quite a compliment to say that Marijuana Deathsquads’ music is even more provocative than their eye-catching name. And on the Minneapolis experimental collective’s first proper full-length, Oh My Sexy Lord, the band delivers an album packed with bold sonic risks and brazen textured beats that are ultimately so fresh and exciting that Marijuana Deathsquads could serve as an apt description of an entire musical genre within itself, in addition to the name of the group. Deathsquads are led by the sonic alchemists Ryan Olson – the writer and producer behind Gayngs and Poliça’s debut album – and Isaac Gale, along with a madcap ensemble of musical innovators from around the Twin Cities and beyond.