LAUNDRY — Blacktongue (review)

LAUNDRY — Blacktongue album cover Album · 1994 · Funk Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
4.5/5 ·
The 5-10 years around the turn of the millennium was a fantastic time for music fans everywhere. Especially for those that lived in areas that did not have an exceptionally deep music scene and less than optimal music stores. The internet would open the gates to hidden gems that people in those areas had never enjoyed access to up to that point. Not only was the communication flow opening up, but the burgeoning digital compression era had created more accessibility, but also a bit of a ideological war, and people were taking sides. My discovery of the band Laundry had a link to that war and the fact that the band appeared to have chosen a side not popular with the bulk of the music industry. One of my frequent way-too-late nights of internet music discovery in the early- 2000's found me following a thread from the band Primus to drummer Tim "Herb" Alexander's band, Laundry . Their website was complete with full mp3 downloads of both their albums. Thus, I set about the rather enjoyable experience of discovery as I dove into their debut album, Black Tongue.

One of the links that I followed to find Laundry was of course a biography of Herb. I can not recall the precise source so exact quotes are not possible, but I recall comments to the effect that Herb wished to expand beyond the cartoonish elements of Primus (the particular that was mentioned was "Winona's Big Brown Beaver"). It can be said that Black Tongue takes a decidedly darker tone than his previous band's themes from the outset. But as the easiest link to establish, it is almost essential to compare the two bands. Aside from the overall thematic tone of the compositions, differences in the instrumental makeup were also readily apparent. As talented as Les Claypool is, one of the best descriptions of his playing style is "precision mud" (not at all pejorative, I love that sound). The bass sounds used by Laundry's Chapman stick player, Ian Varriale, while not completely dissimilar, strayed from the muddiness with its tap style madness. As Varriale lays the string foundation to the opener, Windshield, another comparison invites itself; Tony Levin era King Crimson. But that comparison begins and ends with the Chapman stick. Guitarist Tom Butler's playing style, if one could imagine the exact middle, lays between the atonal minimalism of Larry Lalonde and the virtuosity of Robert Fripp. It fits the music perfectly, but is definitely in its own zone. Herb's drumming is similarly groove oriented, but with less funky, dare I say, danceability than his more familiar works.

Song highlights are the similarly swirling, spacey, psychosis inducing "Monarch Man" and "Canvas". Near the end is a piece called "19", that includes answering machine spoken word self deprecating diatribe with underlying stick work that is mildly reminiscent of King Crimson's "Indiscipline". Overall, there are really no bad songs on this album.

Of the two albums released by Laundry, the more interesting and deep is Black Tongue. As previously mentioned, the overall color of the music is dark, but never with a traditional metal heaviness. The songs alternate from driving beats to seemingly backwards slithering of delirium laced passages. While one might argue it is certainly not as tight as 1999's Motivator, it makes up for it in adventurousness. Black Tongue would definitely not be the choice for the passive listener and passes the prog litmus test more resolutely. And it easily accomplished Tim "Herb" Alexander's goal of distancing himself from comic overtones. Not a masterpiece, but a highly enjoyable, recommended listen.
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