Slomo Rabbit Kick – Bass Monster Lives in the Bass Forest
Skrocki Records (2003)
By Eric “Skip” Tognetti
WYSIWYG (“what you see is what you get”) is the acronym used to describe software applications that let just about anybody design a web page using a visual interface. It’s not unlike a word processor – you make the page look pretty and the program does all the dirty work of writing the computer code for you.
In the tenth and pivotal track on the debut album from Bellingham’s Slomo Rabbit Kick, Bass Monster Lives in the Bass Forest, Jay Chilcote (Revolutionary Hydra) falsely but hopefully proclaims “I’m WYSIWYG now.” If only.
The truth is, Chilcote’s proclamation of forthrightness is betrayed by his confessions throughout much of the rest of the album. As these intelligently written songs tell us, what you see is, in fact, rarely what you get.
The very premise of the album – that it was written and performed by Chilcote’s alter ego, Bass Monster – is about facades. Chilcote cleverly reinforces this premise with lyrics like “My idea of having fun/is going to bookstores to look smart/and faking that I’m familiar/with certain A-list authors/I like to front that I am a literate guy/I will try not to inadvertently reveal/that most of my time is spent watching bad TV” (“Bookstores”), “Four years and still no book/all I have is one page / I’m an Idiot with Your Idiom”), and “I met her at the art school/I told her that my name was Nikolai/and I was a starving Russian” (“Nikolai”).
But it’s the full and honest self-awareness of these deceptions that make Bass Monster Lives in the Bass Forest such a joy. Fortunately, this isn’t down-in-the-mouth therapy music. This is well-crafted, upbeat pop by a songwriter who’s letting us know that sometimes the truth hurts, but sometimes it’s funny, too.
Stylistically, the album slides effortlessly – sometimes in the course of a single song – between the edgy pop of Guided by Voices and the sweetly melodic indie rock of Magnetic Fields. Sonically, what you get is often more than what you first hear. At any moment, Chilcote might choose to interrupt guitars, keyboards, bass, or a banjo with a meowing cat, a bike horn, or the whistle of a steam kettle (I think that’s what that was).
With the help of Death Cab’s Chris Walla at the mixing board, these interjections remain quirky without becoming gimmicky, reminding us that while this is a recorded-in-the-basement album, it’s by no means an amateur effort. An added treat is Jamie Kline’s vocals, which provide an angelic counter to Chilcote’s often deadpan baritone.
Throughout Bass Monster Lives in the Bass Forest, Chilcote cops to the fact that what you see is not exactly what you get. Fortunately, what you get is a very, very good album. – (7.5/10)