The Upshot: Clever lyrical wordplay and a delightful melodic sensibility make this Atlanta band’s debut a subversive gem.
BY FRED MILLS
Though somewhat obscure outside their southern homebase, during their ‘90s heyday, Atlanta-based mavericks Big Fish Ensemble were beloved in so many ways they now seem uncommonly prescient, musically speaking. Their shift-gears-on-a-dime mélange of rock, improv-tilting psych, bluesy folk, and proto-Americana essentially forecast the then-incoming jamband scene, and their freak-flag-flyin’ style of inclusiveness lyrical wit and marked them as genuine regional ambassadors; yours truly saw them perform a number of times while living in Charlotte, NC. (Must-hear early music: 1992’s Field Trip.)
Fast-forward to the present, and we have Atlanta’s Lord High Admirals, headed up by guitarists Paul Schwartz, from the aforementioned BFE, and erstwhile BFE producer Rob Gal; their partners-in-agitation here are bassist Joanna Steed and drummer Cayce Buttrey. And agitate they do on this delightfully twisted album—as one might expect of a group that has songtitles like “Horny Teens Waiting For Your Call” and, er, “The Year That Paul McCartney Was Living In Our Shed,” not to mention a delicate ditty (actually, a powerhouse blues-psych stomp) called “Who Killed Kentucky” involving gums, gals, cannibals, caskets, chicken nuggets, Mitch McConnell, devil black teeshirts, and the KKK.
With additional highlights ranging from a Pixies-go-garage dance instructional called “Rickshaw” (as in, “here’s how to do The Rickshaw”—The Pony and The Monster Mash ain’t got nothin’ on this one) to a power pop gem masquerading as a Camper Van Beethoven-styled rocker (“Nivian”) to one of the sweetest throwbacks you’ll hear all year (“Orbit” is an unlikely collision of Beach Boys and Jonathan Richman, with everyone contributing “ba-da-ba-ba” harmony backing vocals), Lord High Admirals revels in compelling rhythms, insistent pop melodies, and cleverly subversive wordplay. If you need additional encouragement to check it out, just gaze at the cartoon-y sleeve art, lovingly rendered by Schwartz to, one presumes, depict how the band appears in his imagination. That was my take, too.
DOWNLOAD: “Orbit,” “Rickshaw,” “Who Killed Kentucky”