Borscht Belt Volume 1: Ode to Pasqually
The Portland duo Boat Dares takes a bizarre approach to instrumental music that reminds me of the silly touchstones of my youth – Primus singing in the shower about “flatus,” John Cleese scolding a student for rubbing linseed oil into the school cormorant, Lieutenant Frank Drebin buying his wife a harp for Christmas. For long stretches of Boat Dares’ second LP, you hear nothing but the madcap synergy of Sean Ahern’s squeezebox and Dylan Jarrell’s kit. It’s like a punk drummer murdered everyone in a polka band except the accordionist, who was too focused on playing to notice. Jarrell bashes with aplomb behind Ahern’s intense chord changes, dancing around the rhythm but never really locking in. The first track, “Pickles & Pierogies (In the Privy),” takes a somber, minor-key melody into a wormhole of percussive clatter and Middle Eastern scales, like a snake charmer covering the Godfather theme on mushrooms during a Polish barn dance. It’s chaotic, yes, but it’s also music that rewards close listening. There’s real craft being applied all over this album, like Ahern’s deft marimba playing, the hauntingly jaunty groove of “That Ain’t Spaghetti,” and the brain-melting free jazz reedwork from guest blower “Tony Saxophony.” At its best, Borscht Belt Volume 1 feels like a set of outtakes from Tom Waits’ mid-career freakout masterpiece, Swordfishtrombones. At its worst, it’s the sound of two musicians who couldn’t care less what you think. God bless these fucking weirdos.