The Ghost of Cliff Burton, The Maybe Laser
The Maybe Laser is not an easily quantifiable album, and this is a very good thing. Lead vocalist Jef “With One F” and his beat-making cohort Gorilla Bill appear to be truly disturbed, maladjusted, talented psychopaths; the kind of kindred folks you really want to hang out and party with. The relationship between MC and DJ has to be genuine, or the work doesn’t have staying power (see DJ Jazzy Jeff and Will Smith), which is maybe why The Maybe Laser is such an enjoyable ride.
One can easily discern the comradely vibe exuded on every track, and how the oddball lyrics seem to nestle right in with the distinctive, danceable tunes provided. Whether it’s JB and KG of Tenacious D, or Slug and Ant of the Minneapple group Atmosphere, the musical approach of the dynamic duo is seldom matched and rarely off-putting.
Like all good partnerships, Jef and Bill worked together on a previous project before falling in love on the current one. After their popular Houston-area band The Black Math Experiment ended, Jef and Bill were still hungry, so they started a side project that can only be described as a further experiment into the seamless homogenization of multiple music genres. To use a phrase from the west coast, The Maybe Laser falls under the category of chillwave, a relatively new style of music combining relaxed hip-hop beats and electronic grooves, all while pulling heavily from the 1980′s phenomenon of New Wave.
On any particular album by a chillwave artist, a person might find synth pop and 80′s bravado on one track, followed immediately by an emo rap-inspired song not unlike something you’d find on underground hip-hop records by artists like Buck 65 or Busdriver. A succinct commentary on our turbulent times, chillwave refuses to conform to any one particular musical genre, and instead creates its own new sound by combining the best elements from popular dance music and indie-rock/rap, which in turn gives the sound a broader appeal.
Need an example? The Maybe Laser comes out of the gate swinging with its first track, “Super Happy Doctor vs The Final Perfect Moment,” which starts off sounding like The Verve and then abruptly switches over to a quicker-tempo prog-rock feel, reminiscent of Broken Social Scene or The Postal Service. In no uncertain terms, it sets the precise tone for the remainder of the album to follow; the listener should be prepared to experience peaks and valleys of interesting sound, zany lyrics, and rhythmic fluidity.
The song “You-Know-Who Knows How to You-Know-What” is so delightfully ’80s at its core, it could have been used in the score of last year’s over-hyped snoozer Drive (great soundtrack, terrible film). And when listening to “Some Girls,” the unmistakable influence of early Bloodhound Gang seeps through and gets all over the place. But the quintessential piece by far comes toward the end, with the spoken word monologue “The Divine Church of the Broken CD.” Speaking significantly about the vast psychological landscape of religious devotion, Jef recounts the acquisition of a discarded broken CD segment, with the piece eventually supplanting the Bible or other spiritual artifacts as the object he prays to. It is a near-perfect parody on worship and veneration, so comically absurd and insightful, that it actually winds up in deeply profound territory.
Those of us mired in the daily grips of ADHD can truly appreciate an experience like this, and a genre like chillwave at large. Not every LP has to follow a formula, and the best ones seldom do. The Maybe Laser is sometimes silly, sometimes scary, but always a good tickling of the ear-pussy, regardless of any preconceived notions or expectations by the listener. It would appear The Ghost of Cliff Burton really has something here with their first outing.
Let us trust that Cliff Burton himself could get into this group, if he were still among the living. And while we’re at it, Mr. Burton wouldn’t have stood for two seconds of the bullshit Mr. Ulrich and Mr. Hetfield’s bizarre and backwards embrace of anti-piracy legislation has brought about on the name of that once proud, pioneering metal band; or so we are left to assume.