Arthur Yoria, (281)

Arthur Yoria, (281)

Whoa. What the hell? I knew quirky/cool singer-songwriter guy Arthur Yoria was mixing things up a bit on his latest release, (281), but honestly, when lead-in track “No Messin’ With My Rectum If You Like My Erection” hit the chorus (and yes, that is the song title, not to mention most of the chorus lyrics), I nearly drove into the concrete barricade on the side of the freeway. It’s just such a ridiculously, over-the-top, um, explicitly frank come-on/caveat of a song that I still have a little trouble believing that I’m hearing what I’m hearing.

The truly weird part, though, is that in spite of the huge level of uncomfortableness, well…it ain’t bad. Throughout (281), in fact, Yoria manages to veer wildly away from a lot of what he’s been known for in the past, diving headlong into weirdness and half-assed experimentation, all while keeping things insanely catchy. See “He Can, She Can, We Can,” which features a deep, screwed-down vocal that sounds like it stepped off a Gorillaz album (it’s a little busy for the Swishahouse crowd, I’m thinking) over a funky, rumbling track; it’s utterly bizarre and totally unlike Yoria’s past work, but it really, truly works, all on its own.

And that’s Yoria’s genius, really: he’s such a supremely talented songwriter that songs that really, really shouldn’t work (and probably wouldn’t work, in the hands of somebody else) actually come off as clever and strange. Like, say, the dark, murky, New Romantic-esque electronicism of “You Should See Me,” or the weirdly bluesy “The Libyans” (which, as near as I can tell, has zero to do with Libya), where Yoria declares he doesn’t care what anybody thinks but just wants to “play [his] golden fiddle.” Then there’s “Drunk Piss,” which is an instrumental that sounds remarkably like, well, a late-night stumble down to a dingy bathroom to take a piss.

Things get a bit more down-to-earth two-thirds of the way through the disc, with the resigned, gorgeously layered “Tell Me I’m Wrong” grounded in more familiar melancholy power-pop territory and the swooning “Blue” more dreampop-y and sweet than anything else. The latter of which incorporates a little snippet of what sounds like a totally separate song in Spanish, tacking it on at the end. “Something In My Stomach” is a little goofier, with its spoken vocals and stop-start rhythm, but it works amazingly effectively at conveying the self-doubt and confusion that sets in when somebody really gets under your skin for the first time.

It’s funny, but (281) almost seems like a B-sides collection or something, partly because it’s so far removed from his older stuff and partly because of the general slapdash feel of it (the album was originally only available at shows, but now it’s available online in MP3 form, too). Of course, it could also be because this time out Yoria attempted to crowdsource his songwriting somewhat, throwing early mixes out to fans for critique and comment.

Or, most likely of all, Yoria’s just decided he’s tired of being That Suave/Sensitive Pop-Rock Guy and wants to throw the rulebook out the window. Hats off to him for doing it; it doesn’t work for everybody, no, but against the odds, it works for him.

[Arthur Yoria is playing 12/4/09 at Mango's, along with Jesse Podunk & Chase Hamblin.]
(Put Out My Records; Arthur Yoria --

Review by . Review posted Saturday, November 28th, 2009. Filed under Features, Reviews.

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