Guest Post Written By: Pete Tremblay
Released on fledgling Orlando record label, Glowmobile in June 2010 – Sly and the Family Stallone by Alias Punch brings about the same sensibilities you’d expect from any group of small town fellas’ that use cheeky back woods stage names, watch German Expressionist snuff films from the 70’s, and worship Frank Zappa and surf rock : Honesty, style, and subtlety mixed with a ferocity and psychedelic (in thought not sound) state of consciousness sans-pretense. Confused? Intrigued? Strangely Obsessed? Exactly.
From the opening bass strike and bell smash on the premier track, ‘Wine to Jive’ to the last, collective agonized and pleading screech on ‘She Won’t Shut Up,’ Alias Punch has created an intelligently cohesive, conceptually realized, and otherwise eye opening (and head scratching) sonic experience with Sly and the Family Stallone, that leaves you wondering who spiked your drink, where can you get more of it, and wondering, did he just say that?
“Wine to Jive,” the opening track of the E.P, creeps up slowly like an inmate escaping the big house during a Keystone Cops film at the moment he is caught by the spotlight – Vocalist/Bass Player Dusty Mondy unabashedly sets the tone, mindset and setting for the record to come. With all of the wit, conciseness and vocal control that’s been missing from the last decade of indie rock, Mondy proclaims, “Well it’s 3 o’clock here in the morning, and it’s a witching hour, some say… Well if that’s so, with all this cleaning and sweeping I’ve been doing, you’d think this broom here would help me fly away…” Moments later, the core and energy of Alias Punch blasts through the door in the form of a drum roll and surf rock guitar as Arkie Jay Caulkins, and Jasper Bleu, the rhythm section of the group, introduce themselves in the best way possible – a blast of beat and melody that turns it up to 11 without sacrificing taste for power – no cheap gimmicks here either – The recording was done simultaneously with only a few overdubs. They boys gravitate toward the difficult musical choices that would make their idols smile and reconsider their own music – and that’s just in the first 3 minutes.
The Genius of this record comes to fruition on “Gorilla, Gorilla”, the break out single from the EP. Flourishing and intelligent, the Punchers serve up the elements of their focused and unique sound with a polyrhythmic introduction that you can’t help but dance to. Scathing and pointed, Mondy’s lyrics are a stake through the hearts of the pretentious with metaphorical weaponry, while still being tongue in cheek enough to know they aren’t that serious… or are they?
The thing that makes Sly and the Family Stallone so brilliant is the fact that every single decision the band makes in the song writing process is done so with elegant elaboration and a no holds bar brutality AT THE SAME TIME, all while not taking itself too seriously. The feeling, movement and concept evolve differently from song to song, yet still retain the same idea rooted sonically in the soaring and intricate guitar work melded seamlessly into the melodically appropriate bass lines, all settled up on a framework of a schizophrenically intricate percussive rhythms provided by Calkins. Often times the melody is almost creepy and daunting led heavily by Mondy’s bass as the melodic director of the action. Lyrical content and vocal performance get along famously through Mondy’s elaborate vocal manipulation and tone twisting control that lends itself at times as another melodic element in the mix. Each song is as potent and short as a ¼ stick of dynamite, not lasting more than 4 minutes and change – a very good thing when considering that’s all the time they need to get the point across. The relatively lo-fi recording structure (which I generally am not a fan of) is a brilliant medium for the music to be presented in due to its no-frills simplicity that is indicative of the Puncher’s concept. This EP is as solid as they come – free of wondering and unnecessary musical elements. Every solo, flourish, intricacy and elaboration is necessary to the song and in good taste.
As far as the musicianship is concerned, Alias Punch is as good, or better than most of their contemporaries. Drummer Arkie-Jay Calkins has found a way to be explosive and intense yet precise, and tasteful. Jasper Bleu’s Guitar work transcends generational influence, musical knowledge, and tone exploration and Dusty Mondy’s Bass melodies provide the color and movement that the band is so meticulously built upon.
All in All – Sly and the Family Stallone is as sonically and lyrically witty, interesting and brilliantly ridiculous as the name would imply – don’t take it too seriously… or should you?