Custardpaws & Mr. Freezy
So I was shoveling the back deck last winter, listening to Guided by Voices’ 2007 live album from Austin, Texas, when Robert Pollard perfectly and succinctly explained his band’s appeal in a way that hadn’t occurred to me during the past quarter-century of super-fandom. “We play ‘fun rock,’” he slurred, about an hour into the set.
Holy shit, I thought, that’s it! This is a style of rock music that’s just fun to listen to. It’s fun to think about what the lyrics mean. The guitar riffs are fun, the drummer’s having a blast, Pollard’s partying with pals on stage. Long live fun rock!
This is also why I love Custardpaws & Mr. Freezy, a musical correspondence project Maine’s Jeff Badger (a.k.a. Mr. Freezy) began in the 1990s with his friend Blair Wells, who’s up in Canada these days. Following their highly enjoyable 2011 album, The Buffalo, the project languished for almost a decade, but was resurrected last year during the pandemic, when these types of long-distance musical collaborations suddenly became the norm.
Badger, who’s also a knock-out visual artist, burst onto the local scene in the ’90s with his punk band, The Hot Dogs. Transmission Drop, a retooled version of that band with fellow artist/musician Pat Corrigan on drums, released some great rock songs about 10 years ago, but clearly this is the project we need now.
Wells slathers Badger’s rock-oriented base material with gobs of gorgeous synth sounds and electronic weirdness. The criteria guiding their selection of sounds seems to be, Is it fun to listen to? Is it pleasing to the ear? And on track after track of Window Weather, the answer is a resounding, Yes!
Like I said, we need this album now. It’s a timeline-cleanse of a year’s worth of worry and outrage. Life during the pandemic is the record’s theme, but Badger and Wells shrewdly ensure these songs have a shelf life beyond this slow-motion crisis. They can also apply to life in general.
OK, that’s not exactly true of “Contract Tracer,” a great rocker that’d make any punk band worth their spikes kick themselves for not thinking of shouting that term in a chorus first. Other highlights here include the soaring “In the Air,” the tropical breeze of “Ankleweights,” and “Assistant Manager Blues,” a textbook example of Badger’s strong suit as a lyricist: humor thickened with a dollop of pathos.
“Take this visor to the shift supervisor,” Badger croons over a resonator shuffle. “Tell him I’m gone. … This is the day job that killed my ambition / But it won’t kill me, won’t kill me, won’t kill me.”
He can say that again.