Video

March 1995 – album reviews – Eskimo’s ‘The Further Adventures of Der Shrimpkin’ (“a sort of comedic musical lucky dip”)

24 Mar

Eskimo; 'The Further Adventures of Der Shrimpkin'

Eskimo; ‘The Further Adventures of Der Shrimpkin’

San Francisco’s Bay Area still seems to be a hotbed for particularly off-the-wall musical artistry. The headquarters of hippydom in the ’60s is now the place where players’ players (Joe Satriani, Fred Frith, Michael Manring) make their homes, and bands like Primus and Faith No More forged their scrambled mongrel funk/punk/metal in the same neighbourhoods. And it’s also the place from which a secrecy-shrouded band called The Residents sent out a series of sharply clever and mischievous recordings during the ’70s, analysing, deconstructing and parodying popular music in all of its manifestations. One of these was a concept album called ‘Eskimo’, a fanciful reconstruction of Inuit life and lifestyles. Even now, no-one’s absolutely sure whether it was a joke or not.

You’d guess that a band taking their name from that Residents album is gonna be just as difficult to pin down. Apparently Eskimo started off as a joke band, set up by a collection of shaggy undergraduates from UC Berkeley with a penchant for party dresses. They’d hang out on campus corners busking frenetic, eccentric acoustic sets – stabs at TV theme tunes, Springsteen parodies, Who medleys. To an extent, you could say that they’ve never really grown out of those days of unbridled silliness. Eskimo still have wacky and zany written all over them in giant red fifty-foot letters, and anyone who finds the absurdist lunacy of the current Californian freak-muso scene unbearable would be advised to steer well clear.


 
Those not put off by that rubbery sense of humour will probably have a field day. Adding Tom Yoder’s trombone and David Cooper’s marimba and vibraphone to the standard guitar, bass and drums, Eskimo have a lounge-jazz element to their sound that’s got a lot in common with that other late, great, wise Californian eccentric Frank Zappa. A lot of ‘…Der Shrimpkin’ could have come from the same barn as Montana and One Size Fits All. That said, there’s at least as much of Primus slap-bass Muppet silliness in Eskimo as there is of the Mother of Freaks.


 
But like both Zappa and Les Claypool, the band have a love of American popular culture with all of its attendant and hugely enjoyable junk music. Their masterful playing (switching styles, moods, and tempos at the drop of a dime, and as happy with modal jazz charts as with playtime funk) is offset by their complete lack of concern about serious subject matter or, indeed, sense. With most of the twenty-four tracks on ‘…Der Shrimpkin’ clocking in at under two minutes, the album’s a tossed salad of circus music, playground chants, nursery rhymes, gibberish gospel, scuzz-metal and drunken jazz trombone exuberance, all mixed up in a freak-rock pudding. A sort of comedic musical lucky dip.


 
It could all be unbridled silliness but for the fact that ‘…Der Shrimpkin’ never quite loses the aura of anarchic menace that hangs around each of its ingredients. One of the few remaining covers on here – a faithful version of Snakefinger’s Residents collaboration Kill the Great Raven – is (despite its kiddie vocals and campy haunted-house bellowing) a bloody ceremony of ritual murder and resurrection. Babykins flavours a police siege with infantile fears. The You’re So Slender is a Disney cartoon from Dali-Hell, while the jolly slap-funking Bughead (sung in musing tones by guitarist John Shiurba) babbles about the sadistic rituals kids develop for the playground. Oops (once you can decipher it) seems to be about the divine right of extermination; and Ribbit sounds like Mark Twain taking on the princess-and-frog legends, complete with yelling hick farmer and squirming vocals.



 
What with many of the other tracks being short snippets of surreally twisty, dark-toned vibe-jazz (the sort that accompanies swaying cameras creeping around the Bates Motel) Eskimo may initially come across as a comedy band, but they re definitely no joke. A child’s nightmare with a big red pasted-on grin, perhaps. Coco the Clown fingering a cleaver. A set of practical jokes for the damned.


 
Eskimo seem intent on nailing jokey voices and songs onto the menacing shadows of the subconscious, as they do in the exuberant nonsense words of Dado Peru’s hop-skip-and-jumping Dada/Beefheart-jazz, or in Electric Acid Pancake House’s restaurant full of freaks, all happily hallucinating about Elvis’ return as a serial killer. What with that, plus a cheerful stab at Duke Ellington’s Blue Pepper and the odd spiritual song about tacos, they re probably perfect for the enjoyably warped. Give Eskimo a try next time you re having one of those gratuitously loony, twisted days… but watch out for the backwards messages.


 
Eskimo: ‘The Further Adventures of Der Shrimpkin’
Mammoth Records/Prawn Song Records, MR0102-2 (0 35498-0102-2 4)
CD/download album)
Released:
21st March 1995
Get it from: (2020 update) Original CD best obtained second-hand; or download album from Bandcamp.
Eskimo online:
Homepage MySpace Bandcamp Last FM Pandora
 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Post-Punk Monk

Searching for divinity in records from '78-'85 or so…

Get In Her Ears

Promoting and Supporting Women in Music

The Music Aficionado

Quality articles about the golden age of music

ATTN:Magazine

Not from concentrate.

Xposed Club

improvised/experimental/music

I Quite Like Gigs

Music Reviews, music thoughts and musical wonderings

A jumped-up pantry boy

To say the least, oh truly disappointed

PROOF POSITIVE

A new semi-regular gig in London

We need no swords

Organized sounds. If you like.

:::::::::::: Ekho :::::::::::: Women in Sonic Art

Celebrating the Work of Women within Sonic Art: an expanding archive promoting equality in the sonic field

Ned Raggett Ponders It All

Just another WordPress.com weblog

Headphone Commute

honest words on honest music

Yeah I Know It Sucks

an absurdist review blog

Pop Lifer

Waiting for the gift of sound and vision

Good Music Speaks

A music blog written by Rich Brown

Archived Music Press

Scans from the Melody Maker and N.M.E. circa 1987-1996

OLD SCHOOL RECORD REVIEW

Where You Are Always Wrong

Fragile or Possibly Extinct

Life Outside the Womb

a closer listen

a home for instrumental and experimental music

Bird is the Worm

New Jazz: We Search. We Recommend. You Listen.

Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

eyesplinters

Just another WordPress.com site

FormerConformer

Striving for Difference

%d bloggers like this: