Hypnotic Clambake - Mayonnaise

Hypnotic Clambake has been part of the HGMN for many years, and has always been one of the oddest acts around. Fans came to expect zany, psychedelic outings built on interpretations of zydeco, Dixieland, and polka themes, among others. The band’s production slowed over the past few years, but Clambake is back with Mayonnaise, their most quizzical album yet. It’s not because of how strange it is, but because it’s considerably less strange music than the band is capable of.
For Clambake, this is understated stuff. The opening "500 Robots" is a simple study in imagination, in which the narrator finds his household chores interminably taken care of by a legion of robots. Tunes like the shuffling "Trouble" and the absurdist funk of "Beans" bookend "Psychedelic Polka", a skewed clarinet-jazz shortie that sounds like it should: an older version of singer/songwriter Maury Rosenberg and his Clambake mates. Where they would have played 4 notes in 1999, they now play half as many, replacing their individual contributions with an interlocking, ever-changing backdrop of horns, piano, and vocal harmonies.

There are some genuinely surprising moments on this disc, like the subdued lullaby "Windows" and the instrumental "Danger Mouse," which skips along a ska-like beat into a genuine journey through spastic Rasta-jazz realms and grandiose rock. "Man With The Face On The Side" sounds like a Clambake in New Orleans, and "The Scheme Of Things" takes on a decidedly dreary tone with medium tempos, minor keys, and forlorn vocals. OK, so maybe this album IS just as unusual as ever...

"Just A Mountain" and "Turn Your Brain Off" couldn't be more different. "Mountain" is a tongue-in-cheek take on folk music, and "Brain" sounds like a druggy funeral march that has no deceased to honor. "Woe Is Me" is an accordion-twisted manifestation of multi-instrumentalist Chris Reynolds' apparent fear when it comes to having your food ruined by a dying refrigerator. It's hard to believe the band never recorded a song titled "Clambake," and here it is...ending the album with its deliberately cheesy synthesizers and knock-off island rhythms.

As curious of an album Mayonnaise really turns out to be, it's still this New York band's most grounded effort. Clambake supporters should love adding it to their collection and newcomers will certainly get a taste of some well-aged creativity from a veteran band.

--Bryan Rodgers