BAZOOKA JONES - Bazooka Jones (Rock Off)
STEREOLA - Bazooka Jones (Rock Off)

First off, a confession: ventriloquist dummies have always scared the stool out of me, resulting in many a tormented and sleepless night as a kid, a phobia which finally reached a grand crescendo last Christmas when my son received the two-part “Goosebumps” DVD “Night of the Living Dummy” in his stocking, the disturbing tale of a bloodless wooden puppet named “Slappy” that looks and acts like nothing so much as a miniature Pee Wee Herman banged to the gills on some queer mixture of absinthe and crank. The less said about the 1978 film “Magic,” the better. It nearly pushed me around the bend.

But give Chris “Bullethead” Jones points for originality; regardless of the temptation to blame the whole idea on bad genes or broken chromosomes from a guy apparently on day leave from a rubber room at Eloise, it’s probably safe to assume no one’s ever hatched the idea of hitting the boards dressed as a ventriloquist dummy and toting a Gretsch or a Les Paul before. Or toting anything else for that matter. Where else but Detroit? Alice Cooper – The New York Dolls – Kiss – Insane Clown Posse - Bazooka Jones. Notice a pattern? OK, ICP may be pushing it.

The band is the slightly-tetched brainchild of Jones and his truly-dazzling-kitten-with-a-whip wife (“MILF fatale” doesn’t quite do her justice) Michele, aka “Viagra” who, based on their two albums - “Bazooka Jones” and “Stereola” - harbor dreams of bringing their vision of unapologetically-deranged pop music with an inspirational message of “onward and downward,” more hooks than a meat locker, and a crunchy sugar coating thick enough to amp up a busload of on-the-nod, casino-bound pensioners to the masses, positioning the brand in the mind of John Q. Public right alongside Wal-Mart and “American Idol” and killer gas prices and gastric bypass surgery and midriff-baring-navel-pierced mall rats and Xanax and “Grand Theft Auto” and Snuggies and Romilar and Iggy dancing like a spastic chimp on “The Dinah Shore Show” and the BTK killer and the “National Enquirer” and aorta-thrumming energy drinks.

But all of the nudge-nudge-wink-wink wordplay, not-so-double entendre, and sweaty, heaving cleavage in their own off-tilt world can’t obfuscate the obvious; Bazooka Jones are arrogant-but-lovable curs adept at wrenching two and three-minute blasts of shut-up-and-dance bamalama out of their scrap-heaped minds with a casual shrug that you keep whistling for all the wrong reasons.

Their eponymous debut album from 2005 surrenders itself completely to the loud, chiming, buzzing, fizzing guitars, handclaps, and whoah-oh-oh’s which earmark all great power pop. And make no mistake - this IS power pop - despite a stage show which must be busier than a cat covering poop. Viagra sings like a groin-grinding smiler with a knife, proud owner of that make teenaged emo boys sigh, throw up their hands, and cease writing bad, whiny poetry, wearing girl pants, acting glum, and crying in the dark. She should be tattooed with a warning, “Light fuse and get away.” I’m willing to bet the farm her favorite Go-Go was Jane Wiedlin.

Bullethead fills in the spaces with plenty of bump-and-grind, creature-with-the-atom-brain guitar racket but the melodies shine through brightly like snatches of transmissions from the pre-internet-file-sharing galaxy some of us used to call home, a place where “Your Baby (She Wants Me),” “Love Up,” “Swinging on the Moon,” and “Goodbye Mr. Niceguy” wouldn’t sound at all out of place on The Big 8 or Keener 13 blaring out of the dashboard speakers on a 1967 Galaxie 500 with the windows rolled down. As for the burnt-around-the-edges cover of “These Boots Are Made for Walking”? Somewhere Nancy Sinatra is crying in her Vanilla Supreme Ensure. It must suck to get old.

With “Stereola,” Bazooka Jones shape shift into an eight-legged downriver goat lord complete with horns, a forked tail, a pitchfork and a track list festering with invigorating crassness. But don’t let the song titles throw you; it’s all a smokescreen because there’s plenty of chewy bits here to gnaw on, like the snappy pop thrills of “Lydia Chlamydia” and “Fag,” the band’s circuits wired between the opposing poles of what may or may not get them chin music from record company conglomerate overlords and a feisty determination to eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we might die. And try as I might, I can’t recall anyone ever covering The Archies’ “Sugar Sugar.” Genius, right?

Besides the aforementioned issues I still have with ventriloquist dummies, I’m beginning to suspect I’m also suffering from a raging case of agoraphobia, preferring the friendly confines of my own living room to the cramped confines of a clammy club gig, but I figure this note tacked to my fridge has to be a step in the right direction: “Memo to myself: Do the dumb things I gotta do. Touch the puppet head.” - Clark Paull

- Stereola

1/4 - Bazooka Jones



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