No less an authority on sludge and the seedy intersection of punk and metal than Melvins/Tool board-helmer Toshi Kasai recently described Portland duo Fox Medicine as an amalgamation of “Black Sabbath with J-Pop vocals.” And, yeah, that sounds about right. (The band offers up a description of a fictional noise-genre: “bubblegum doom.)
The nascent band’s recording debut – Procedures Mystique, out today, and, yes, recorded by Kasai – is like Bullhead filtered through some sort of codeine-laced fever dream, with frontwoman Neezy Dynamite’s chirpy, almost Tweenish vocals playing an odd foil to her sludgy, doom-laden electric guitar. Yes, it’s a bizarre little record but, if you can wrap your head around it, it’s pretty damned good.
Fox Medicine, which is fleshed out admirably by Vanny Keeps on drums, proves it knows how to knock out a hell of a 4/4 death march, though Dynamite’s self-referential squeak, especially over bursts of lyrical asides like “Why so sad?,” keeps things from feeling monochromatic. My favorite moments on the disc, though, are the adventures off the beaten path. In this respect, there’s the jagged Throbbing Gristle- and Steel Pole Bath Tub-isms of “Cotton Candy Planet,” or the playful “Orion’s Pointy Belt,” which, a-a-a-a-hhhs put to the side for a moment, sounds like a less punk-metal cousin of Melvins’ “Honey Bucket.” (The closing is VICIOUS – all caps definitely intended.)
Yeah, sometimes these guys are just plain weird, maybe a little too weird for the audience they’re courting. (I mean, c’mon, there have got to be a lot of black T-shirts in those Portland crowds, amIrite?) To that end, there’s the album closer, “Space Kitty,” whose verses race up and down guitar necks with tinny backing drums. But, true to form, even Dynamite knows when to reel in things, and she offers some incredible, descending crunch-work – think Jucifer – that keeps the song from feeling too J-Pop, too consciously playful. It’s a Bizarro ending to a Bizarro record but, against the odds, it works. There’s something as fun and addictive as sugar straws to this band. You, too, need to hear it to see if it works for you. Bubblegum doom, indeed.