Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Nick Krill and Jonathan Low
There are times in listening to the work of Philadelphia band The Extraordinaires that you feel like you're sailing the seas of cheese or getting into the lives Winona and her big brown beaver, or the other characters made out of modeling clay, coming to life in the prog-rock world of Primus, but that same silliness is nonexistent. Or it's not as thick. There are countless characters that are written as these examples of human tragedy and comedy - scrappy animals and plants who are suddenly faced with intricate problems that cause heart attacks, high blood pressure and divorces. They are faced with alienation and struggles that will always be present as there are no antidotes. It's not at all a way of making a landscape of ridiculous puppetry or absurdist fiction for lead singer and songwriter Jay Purdy, but his way of tackling some substantial social issues and natural weirdness that scrambles all of us into punch drunk zombies - money, love, power, and status. He uses cacti, chickens and mythological figures from ancient Greek literature to demonstrate the oddity of it all and then sets them into bumping, cheerful arrangements that run the gamut through early Flaming Lips psychedelia, via albums like "Clouds Taste Metallic" and "Transmissions From The Satellite Heart," to bright and sparkly pieces of pure pop that feel like pizzeria cabarets and exploding rainbow tales. They are whimsical stories with dark morals and fascinating transgressions, arching lines and such high entertainment value that they could exist solely on the written page. The music is interesting and adventurous, but the writing is so strong that the sentiments wouldn't be lost if they were only to be read. These are coloring books for adults, who are led most of the way, but asked to fill in their own colors, connecting the trials that the cactus with the severed left arm is going through on the brilliant "Hi-Five The Cactus," with their own unavoidable, hard-to-figure-out worries. Purdy is a charismatic front man who isn't afraid of trying anything or going anywhere with a song - using devices and unorthodox methods to let the stories expand and reach for many different marks. He takes us into weird Shel Silverstein/Daniel Johnston like lands, while throwing a whole new level of imaginative dressing onto them.
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