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Idiot Flesh - Tales Of Instant Knowledge And Sure Death CD (album) cover


Idiot Flesh


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Prog Folk Researcher
3 stars I’m not really sure what to make of these guys. Which is sort of the point, or at least I think it is. Idiot Flesh is the preincarnation of Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, and like that band these guys deliver a bizarre and seemingly disjointed mix of sounds, philosophies, theatrics, and assorted nonsense, some of which is actually music.

But much of which is more like a Fred Frith-meets-Art of Noise kind of thing with abrupt and jarring tempo shifts, copious sound effects, and household-implement-as-musical- instrument lineups. I really have a difficult time listening all the way through this thing at one setting, not because it’s necessarily bad, but because it takes too much energy for what it gives back in return. A poor cost/benefit margin, in capitalistic terms.

Some entertainment can be had by trying to figure out where specific tracks, or even snippets of songs, came from. In the opening “Something” for example, there’s some sort of Bowie thing going on there for a while, and the phrase “just give me something, something I can use” could be attributed to Patti Smith’s ‘Easter’ album – or maybe not. The goofy Glockenspiel and percussion on “Artstroking” might be a nod to (or parody of) any number of seventies symphonic bands, or might simply be a flashback to one of the band member’s art-school days. Who knows? There is some guitar work on this one, mixed in with cello, which is quite original and completely opaque as to how it was accomplished. Props for that. And “The Tale” smacks a bit of Talking Heads, maybe more like what Talking Heads would sound like on stimulants and with no particular sense of rhythm.

The highlight of the album, if this album has such a thing, is the lengthy “Housewife”, which manages to lay down a very funky bass line behind vocals that are a mixture of Bowie circa ‘Scary Monsters’; about a hundred of the latter and obscure East L.A. punk bands of the late seventies; maybe a little B-52s, and what appears to be basically a MILF theme. Pretty off-the-wall stuff.

“Heavy Metal Beer” has a very Art of Noise feel to it, with the exception that the guitar is borderline heavy metal at times (to be expected given the title I suppose), and a short passage that appears to be the Civil War-era “Look Away Dixie Land” tune. A few minutes later “The Widening Gyre”, basically an extended drum solo with white noise and industrial sound effects closes the album.

I’m not a big avant-prog fan, and definitely not a Sleepytime Gorilla Museum fan, so this album won’t likely ever make any Best-of lists in my collection. But the artwork is interesting, the general musical concept of the band is worth 15 minutes of fame, and I suppose we need representation at all spectrums of the musical universe to keep things interesting. I’m going to say this is good simply because it is original and well-produced, but it’s certainly not excellent since this style of expression has natural limitations that prevent the band from really growing much (as evidenced by the fact they disbanded a few years after this released). And I wouldn’t recommend it to the general progressive music audience. If you like any of the other artists mentioned here you will probably like these guys; otherwise – you probably won’t.


Report this review (#116365)
Posted Sunday, March 25, 2007 | Review Permalink
Marty McFly
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Continuing my Idiotic voyage from other two albums, my sails got me to this obscure album. This albums really sounds like debut, when compared to other two, it sounds immature (little bit), bunch of guys (not single girl here) trying to make some fun while doing music (and recording it all). Many things will be the same as in previous reviews, so please read them too.

This debut is also funky a lot, using strong bass line (as showed in Housewife.

For example Heavy Metal Beer means Brian May like guitar solos doing weird melody together with mumbled chantings and Heavy sounds in general.

Sounds here are more aggressive (I suppose), Get Floor would be prime example, but many others too.

But it's not bad album and I quite like it to be honest, not exactly sure why because it's quite straightforward album.

4(-), to be exact.

Report this review (#283371)
Posted Tuesday, May 25, 2010 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars After "Acid Rain" and before "Sleepytime Gorilla Museum", there was "Idiot Flesh". This eccentric band only put out 3 albums which saw some noticeable growth while they were together. "Tales of Instant Knowledge and Sure Death" was their debut album, and it is just as quirky as their last album, but not quite as loud the SGM albums. But they were still quite crazy and very Avant garde with a lot of humor throughout. You will hear where SGM got their basic sound, however, and thank goodness they gave us their odd sense of humor and excellently chaotic music under another moniker, with some personnel changes and with a much louder and upfront sound.

Anyway, this is still a great album, especially considering it is their debut album. This one is quite quirky with sudden changes in tempo, meter, vocal styles, moods and melodies throughout. If you are familiar with SGM's music, then you will know what you will be getting into here, just with less intensity and a bit less stability. The music is crazy and fun, yet it is very inventive and extremely progressive. Plus, the band actually sounds like it is have fun doing this. This album is not quite as good as their last album "Fancy" and not as great as the SGM albums, but it is still a fun listen. Just be warned that it is quite quirky and all over the place. Those that love the odd Avant Garde music of bands like Mr. Bungle and such will love this. I'm not going to try to describe it, just expect more funk and less heaviness than SGM. You have to hear it to believe it.

Report this review (#2218958)
Posted Wednesday, June 5, 2019 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
PSIKE, JRF/Canterbury, P Metal, Eclectic
4 stars After releasing highly eclectic weirdo cassette-only demos as Acid Rain, the freak show that consisted of Nils Frykdahl and Dan Rathbun with David Shamrock changed its name to IDIOT FLESH before releasing its first official vinyl LP titled TALES OF INSTANT KNOWLEDGE AND SURE DEATH. While Frykdahl and Rathbun would stay together for three albums as IDIOT FLESH and then form Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, Shamrock opted out of the IDIOT FLESH party and hooked up with other equally strange bands like Hieronymous Firebrain.

IDIOT FLESH took everything laid out in the Acid Rain demos and made it even more whacky. First of all Frykdahl and Rathbun joined forces with Gene Jun (guitar, vocals), Daniel Roth (piano, tax, drums, metal percussion) and Chuck Squier (drums) to create a larger than life band sound rather than a trio of crazy musicians going absolutely nuts. This official debut was also the turning point where the band became more theatrical and began implementing everything from marching band routines, puppet shows and the playing of household items as instruments.

The band adopted the slogan "rock against rock" which was aimed at the commercial nature of where most rock music had gone. TALES was a clear middle finger to the music industry with an avant-discordant blend of funk rock, avant-prog, Eastern European folk music, opera and even a touch of metal at times. Sounding something in the line of fellow Bay Area band Nuclear Rabbit or the debut album from Mr Bungle who they often get accused of sounding like, it should be remembered that as Acid Rain, Frykdahl and Rathbun were already conjuring up strange funk rock based avant-prog as far back as 1985 before Mr Bungle and similarly minded bands even existed.

While not as sophisticated as the following two IDIOT FLESH releases, TALES more than makes up for any fine-tuning of compositional fortitude with spontaneous eruptions of passionate punkish creativity. The main style in play is funk rock which acts as the canvass upon which to pain a colorful surrealist portrait of various moods and styles. While the avant-prog wizardry isn't as prevalent as it is on future releases or as heard in the perfection of the Sleepytime Gorilla Museum releases, on TALES the oddball time signature deviations often occur as unexpected hairpin turns into the very weird much in the vein of classic Zappa at his most wild and unruly.

The band was eccentric in every way in how it dressed, in how it performed and of course in its musical maelstrom potpourri of strange twisted ideas run amok. In addition the band adopted crazy pseudonyms such as Captain Dragon (Gene Jun), The Improver (Dan Rathbun), Pin (Nils Frykdahl), a trait that would remain with all future members of the band. A wild and unhinged album, TALES OF INSTANT KNOWLEDGE AND SURE DEATH showcases the unbridled passion of all the musicians on board with no time to employ the brakes for any reason. This is a let it all out sorta release with one bizarre twist and turn after another. You really can't predict anything that happens on this one. It even ends with a weird noise segment that leaves your nerves more tattered than before. This is for the hardcore crowds only.

Report this review (#2993501)
Posted Thursday, February 22, 2024 | Review Permalink

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