Music: Crunchy Frog & its Danish Rockers

by Hilary Crowe

Crunchy Frog,* the record label from Copenhagen credited with breaking garage rock duo The Raveonettes (now on Vice Records), is sending some more Danish indie pop-rock stateside with Wolfkin’s Brand New Pants and X-Ray Spirit from Snake & Jet’s Amazing Bullit Band.

Wolfkin’s debut has been circulating in the band’s native Denmark and neighboring Germany since August 2006, although it was finally released in the U.S. on Feb. 12 of this year. The late jump across the pond is easily understood after 43 minutes of trite sonic punishment. The equivalent of a failed state in the music world, the frontloaded album runs out of what little self-sustaining steam it had long before reaching the lukewarm title track, proof that there’s more to songwriting than peppering otherwise flat-lining lyrics with shocking obscenities and potty-humor-inspired, tongue-in-cheek quips to give bland compositions some zing. In fact, the entire album is a monument to mediocrity, the result of yet another couple of average Joes matriculating through the increasingly meritocracy-challenged music industry.

However, despite such affronts as “Closer” and “7th Heaven” – the abysmal track that sparked the duo’s disc-making and offers little clues as to why anyone considered the venture a good idea at all – Wolfkin may find new fans in the States. “Subversatine” picks up the pace to a trot with a Morrissey-inspired melancholic, ambiguously aimed love song, as does the somewhat pleasantly repetitive “Coyoacan” – the rockingest, best song on the album. “Island of Surprise” gets a gallop going with a bit of blues-country twanging, but the Jesus references, forced wittiness, and repetition of such stop the momentary momentum in its tracks.

All of Wolfkin’s lyrics are not especially engaging or revelatory: they’re empty, trite, and ultimately unmoving. One might say that shutting up would do the band some good, but for that to be true the music would have to be strong enough to stand on its own – which it is not. The drum machine, looping, and vocoder effects have been done and done again, and by better, more creative artists (namely Broken Social Scene and Animal Collective).

It seems Wolfkin (Wolfkin is Lars Vognstrup and Christian Gotfredsen) is hopelessly snagged astride a barbed wire fence – not quite dangerous or menacing, not quite twee; neither experimental nor harmoniously and melodically appealing. It seems Wolfkin doesn't need Brand New Pants but a brand new bag and a swift kick in the pants they’ve already got.

But where Wolfkin lack teeth, Snake & Jet pack quite a bite and prove to be one of Crunchy Frog’s more redeeming bands. For fans of the hypothetical love child of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and The Subways, this band’s brand of indie, electric garage rock riffage ricocheting against sassy harmonica, sloppy keyboards, and high hat rapping will get even the most reluctant toes tapping and tushes wagging. Snake & Jet's X-Ray Spirit is actually a compilation of re-mixes and remastered tracks with a few new additions that displays this duo’s material from five EPs released in Denmark dating from as far back as 2003, although this is their first LP. X-Ray Spirit was released on March 25 in the U.S. Snake & Jet (mutli-instrumentalists Thor Rasmussen and Thomas Teilmann Frederiksen, who are aided by a number of guest vocalists) have the New York City garage band act down so well – complete with the gravelly, Pabst Blue Ribbon-and-Marlboro-cracked vocals – they’re almost disappointingly un-exotic. Almost.

The only downside is that the band found a shtick they carry well and run with it – ’til the (dead) end. There’s not much variation in their sound; periodic, short experimental tracks punctuate the run-on dissonance-spewing sentences with ethereal electromusings. Luckily, the band included brief respites like “Garbage Structure” – perhaps the most interesting track on the album – to break up the monotony of those too-much-of-a-good-thing, aggressive and digitally dirtied ditties. Then again, there’s nothing as endorphin-inducing as listening to one’s favorite song endlessly, dizzyingly on repeat, and with X-Ray Spirit, Snake & Jet have given future fans just that – an album of future favorites.

*For those not familiar with the cultural reference behind the name, please check out this Monty Python skit.

(The promotional photo of Snake & Jet's Amazing Bullit Band is by Simon Højbo Hansen for Crunchy Frog Records. To see Snake & Jet's video for "X-Ray" please check below. Wolkin recently finished a short tour of the U.S. That duo's video for "A Vacant Heart" is the second one below.)

Editor's Note: This post is the last piece by Hilary Crowe for iVoryTowerz. For the second time, we send her off with a hearty good-bye and we wish her luck in her new endeavors. Hilary is one of the original writers of the blog group and her views and attitude have contributed to the blog's character.

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