My By Self
If you want to know something about an artist or band, visit their web site. Most anybody involved in the "arts" has a site these days, or at least a page on My Space. However, don't go looking to the band's bio, or even its press page for information. No, for the real 4-1-1, go directly to the band's "links" page. It will tell you a hell of a lot more about the artist or musicians involved than any publicist's words or critic's views. In the case of Holy Frog, a self-proclaimed "surreal rock" band, their favorite links include musicians as diverse as the Meat Puppets and John Lee Hooker, cult comedian Bill Hicks and the Twilight Zone's Rod Serling. These choices speak volumes about Holy Frog and their music.
On the spinning globe of indie rock bands and artists, Holy Frog -- the duo of Kurt Kitson and Tobias Epstein, really -- stand out as true originals. While too damn many alternative popsters attempt to appear fiercely independent even while courting major label deals and magazine covers, the guys in Holy Frog have been sharpening their axes, honing their craft and creating a sound that is as out-to-lunch as anything you've ever heard. Forget about hear-today-gone-tomorrow wannabes like Bright Eyes or the Polyphonic Spree or whatever the flavor is this month...Holy Frog are the shizzle, a unique rock band with the heart of Salvador Dali and the soul of Sun Ra.
My By Self, the band's excellent self-produced debut album, offers a breathtaking, bone-shaking mix of mutant pop, alternative-universe country, psyche-folk and magic-mushroom rock & roll. Holy Frog pursues a fractured sense of instrumentation, with various musical currents crossing one another in mid-stream. The resulting sound is somewhat disjointed and unusual to the ears, but once you wrap your head around the underlying paradox, the fine songwriting and melody reveals itself. It's an innovative technique, sort of a situation where, if you'll "free your mind, your ass will follow," to paraphrase George Clinton.
The band's lyrics, while nowhere near as overtly surreal as their sound, are nevertheless fairly well drenched in psychedelia and peyote dust; purple imagery and cosmic questions abound. My By Self is bookended by two class war screeds, the album-opening "Table" pointing out that "somebody's crowding in at our table." It's the rich and the powerful, throwing us the old bone about having your cake, Holy Frog singing "it feels as though my innocence is gone." The album-closing "Trust Fund Baby" is a hilariously satirical jab at the silver spoon crowd, stating "I wish I was a trust fund baby" because "I'd spend all my cash on hookers, shiny cars and blow." At least they're honest, especially when pointing out that "I'd be rich and you'd get by on meager means, and the differences between us would become obscene."
There's a lot more between these two insightful songs, though, great stuff like the instrumentals "Charlie," with shimmering, shoe-gazing guitars leading into a chaotic miasma of clashing rhythms, taut six-string work and an overall euphoric feeling, and "Song For Odell," a throwback to the feedback-soaked sound of the '60s, Holy Frog channeling Hendrix circa Axis: Bold As Love or, at the very least, early Bevis Frond. The country-folk tune "Going To The Country" speaks of hermitic hippie dreams of self-sufficiency where "I ain't got no neighbors and the government leaves me alone." The melancholy "Lisa" evokes a cross between Lou Reed and Jeff Buckley, speaking as eloquently of alienation and loneliness as any song you've ever heard. The muted vocals of "S'mores" work to the song's advantage, oblique lyrics backed by a hypnotic soundtrack, like staring too long into a blazing campfire.
Throughout My By Self, Holy Frog display the atmospheric space of R. Stevie Moore, the intelligent eccentricities of Frank Zappa, Aquarium Rescue Unit's zeal for musical adventure, Captain Beefheart's sense of surrealism and Spirit's intricate compositional skills. Throw in elements of the Velvet Underground, the Incredible String Band, the Meat Puppets, Nick Drake and Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd and you have a lesson in musical history that no multi-national corporation would ever release. What all of these artists have in common with Holy Frog is a certain iconoclastic nature and the ability to see beyond the horizon and dream of creating music that nobody's ever heard. In this, Holy Frog has succeeded and yes -- hyperbole be damned -- My By Self is that damn good....
REVIEW BY REV. KEITH A. GORDON
My By Self - More than a record, it's a declaration.