It’s been three years since Schnauser released a new album after 2014’s Protein for Everyone. I loved what they have done on their fifth album since it was my introduction to their music. It was wacky, off-the-wall, prog, pop, avant-rock, and in your face. This year they have released their sixth album on a new label with Bad Elephant Music entitled, Irritant. And it proves that have shown no sign of stopping and never giving up on their sense of humor.
For me, it is a “Holy Shit!” release I’ve listened to from start to finish. I can hear the cross-overs between the Cardiacs, Knifeworld, Supersister, XTC, and Gentle Giant rolled up into a big giant smoothie. Alan Strawbridge, who founded the band 12 years ago, still follows in the footsteps of Robert Wyatt, Andy Partridge, Vivan Stanshall, Tim Smith, and the late great maestro of Gong, Daevid Allen.
Listening to this album, is like walking on Schnauser’s tightrope and you have to be very, very, very careful by not looking down. Because you never know if they are going to cut the rope or not. And the tightrope itself has five centerpieces on here that just made me embark on their roller-coaster ride.
The opener, Spiele Mit Katzen is a speed demon introduction between organ, drums, and sax with an intense punky roar and lushful midsections. I can hear the Cardiacs influences everywhere. It’s then followed by and electro-space trippy adventure a-la Chrome Hoof style. Re-Morgating the Nest of Hairs is essence to the Rugrats theme with some nostalgia of growing up to old-school ‘90s Nickelodeon cartoons as it delves into a psych-punk space rock approach.
There are some mysterious movements as if Ren and Stimpy are continuing more of their journey inside the Black Hole before going back into the morning animated TV-sque intro. The Monday Club deals with the 2015-2016 election and run-up to the Brexit referendum. The song deals for a plea to end the scaremongering and spewing of the media.
Schnauser pushes the envelope and they are spot on what was happening. And I can imagine it’s still going strong. The last 2-minutes sees them going for an approach in the essence of Henry Cow’s Nirvana for Mice. Now this is a title that just took me by surprise and would have given Jamie Oliver a chance to shit his pants on.
Chinese Brainworm (Taeria Solium). Now when I first heard this title, I was thinking to myself, “Schnauser really never gives up on a sense of humor.” And believe me it is a wicked sense of humor. I like how they take the approach of William D. Drake’s The Rising of the Lights-era with a moody waltz in the time signature of 3/4. But I get the feeling that Schnauser could have written this as a score for a short featuring Ren and Stimpy.
Fail Better starts with the pouring rain as Dino Christodoulou’s free-jazz Sax improvisation before Duncan’s keyboards go into an eerie wah-wah psychedelia approach. Alan shows his nod to the master of Robert Wyatt with his inspirational lyrics along with some lifting guitar and sax work.
This is my fourth time listening to Irritant. And it is one of the wackiest, out of this world, and insane albums I’ve listened to this year and prepare more with Schnauser to hurtle through more of the cosmos with them.