You know, it feels like life itself it just a series of connected bad ideas and as a society, it feels like we’ve had a lot of bad ideas as a whole. But you know what isn’t a bad idea? Listening to El Drugstore. Consisting of a couple East of the Wall members, this trio describes themselves as an ‘instrumental freak attack‘, which is pretty appropriate in a number of ways. No vocals, they just let the axes and drums do the talking.
El Drugstore‘s music is pretty heavy – it is clearly on the metal side of things, making use of groove and some minor scale grate and grit. It’s actually a very anxious sounding album. Lots of staccato decor liters progressive song structures that go from zero to holy shit pretty quick. It’s apparent that The Golden Age of Bad Ideas was not created as a sedentary work. It contains a highly volatile energy that’s transferable to a listener with ease.
No matter where you start with the album, it’s all got a foreboding mood to it. Dark, but not bleak, like a blackened sky signaling impending thunderstorms, maybe a tornado or two. Fitting, as there’s just a whirlwind of awesome measures in these songs. Take “You Call This An Embarrassment Of Riches?” for instance, with its fluttery riffs in the beginning and huge midsection that reminds me of early Decapitated, with its melodies and punchy rhythm. This is the more groove-centric side of El Drugstore, one more concerned with winning you over with tasty guitar work, dense and warm bass, and fun drums. “Dog Food Days” is likely my favorite example, as they play with this stoner/desert rock tone that I appreciate.
On the more fraught side of things, we get “Overreacting To The End Of The World”, an album closer that’s all about wrapping the whole thing up in a busy bow. From start to finish, it captures that delightful apocalyptic panic that exists in most of us, or the feeling of being on a boat in a turbulent sea, the waves violently undulating so much you can’t help but pee a little (don’t worry, I won’t tell). “Tomb Of Skin” is profoundly uncaring of conventional tactics, that much is evident from the sputtering, start-stop structure of the middle of the track. It’s like playing Red Light/Green Light with the song prodding at your patience as you wait for a climax or a comedown – either will do, neither exactly arrive. To this day, I’m unsure if I like it or not, but I don’t not like it, so touche, El Drugstore!
I like pretty much everything on offer here. The Golden Age of Bad Ideas is a competently strange mix of mood that all trend along the same guiding line – nothing weird enough to alienate a listener, nothing bland enough so as to lose the praise of people like me that respect something different and fun. Maybe I’ve kept my head in the sand a bit when it comes to instrumental progressive music this year, but this is one of the few projects that warrants at least a few listens.
El Drugstore telegraph their weirdness with their name, so take that for what it’s worth and prepare for music to match that tone. Progressive music has always been a haven for the off-putting and challenging stuff on this side of the spectrum, and while this band still manages to be highly appealing to those initiated into heavy prog music, there’s always some new angle from which to attack. The Golden Age of Bad Ideas finds quite a few of those angles and holds the line for a nicely enjoyable piece.