[FUZZ BOMBS] As its mid-career name change might imply,
Big Black Cloud (formerly “Here Comes a Big Black Cloud!”) isn’t the
same band it was while soundtracking summer house shows with its
calamitous, darkly celebratory garage rock in the late aughts. Long gone
are the dancers, bolts of theremin and discordant blasts of brass. In
fact, BBC sounds an awful lot different than it did on last year’s aptly
titled Dark Age full-length, which found the band’s old sound narrowed and refracted in cracked fun-house mirrors.
On Shitty Vibrations,
the trio sounds—for the first time—exactly like its name would suggest.
Opener “Human Host” is a stuttering crawl through muddy feedback that
offers nods to rockabilly but remains mostly tethered to a distressing
lo-fi hardcore sound. But it’s on the instrumental “Black Friday” that
the band proves it can do more now with less: Guitarist/vocalist Nick
Capello’s guitar convulses with metallic and ADD delta blues licks
folded in on themselves while bassist Soo Koelbli and drummer Travis
Wainwright maintain a high-tension groove out of the Fugazi playbook.
The cassette release’s A-side wraps with the sludgy “Medusa,” which
forces the first two tracks’ aesthetics together in unholy matrimony.
But it’s on the
B-side where BBC most successfully balances its punk and psychedelic
tendencies. The title track opens in stabbing fits and false starts
(with vocals, as usual, so tinny that one can’t understand much besides
the Beach Boys-goofing battle cry of “shitty vibrations”) and then
inflates and pops into something befitting of an Italian horror movie
soundtrack. “Untitled” is another instrumental cut that sounds like
early Modest Mouse on a severe death trip. The catchy, crusty,
near-cowpunk anthem “Mazes” follows, and the entrancing,
out-of-character “Cocaine World (Dub Version)” closes the album on a
particularly gloomy (if funky, thanks to Koelbli’s wandering fingers)
note. Which is exactly how a band called Big Black Cloud should close an
album. It’s just perhaps not an album you should listen to while taking
any kind of medication.