Confusatron: Ctrl Alt Dstry

Ctrl Alt Dstry

All your base are belong to Confusatron

Maybe the thing that will keep your mind working the longest is pondering the question: “It took Confusatron seven years to make Ctrl Alt Dstry EXACTLY like this?”

The album, a long-awaited follow-up to Chewbacalypse Now by a rival for the title of Portland’s most respected-by-other-musicians band, is unquestionably a work of art. A band like Dream Theater and other progressive metal might be a cultural touchpoint, but really there isn’t much like Confusatron. They are seriously silly, light-heartedly heavy, messily precise. Their songs can take such manic twists and turns that it’s difficult to understand how they keep it all straight, let alone make decisions like, “okay, the first clip from Surf Nazis Must Die comes in right at the 2:30 mark…”

There’s four-beat jazz measures, surf-rock, Italian opera, Gilbert and Sullivan love songs, clip-clop cow punk — their musical palette is impossibly large — but the recurring dark themes (why are demons always depicted with ultra-low voices? Because they’re underground?) and frequent use of breakneck speed and caustic noises makes them a bit of an acquired taste. Their title track has almost not cohesion whatsoever. There are times when they’d be hardcore, but you can never catch a riff you can headbang to. “No Ha Ochi,” with its strings and lilting bits moving into a rockabilly, Western opera sort of thing, and then the audible audience that makes the song like listening to people watching a Western opera, really makes you rethink what is classical music.

Why do we choose the instruments and means of making music that we do? What are the boundaries of the instruments that we play? Those are the questions raised by drummer Adam Cogswell, guitarist Doug Porter, bassist Jason LaFrance, and a laptop named Tickles. Their creativity is as awe-inspiring as their playing.

Covered in Bees: Portland Death Punk, Vol. 2: Louder than Fire

Colony collapse disorder

Covered in Bees kill Louder than Fire

If you get a chance, check out the trailer for the movie 2 on YouTube. Not only does it feature some ripping Covered in Bees, but it’s just sort of downright wrong in a very entertaining way. If you like zombies eating flesh, this is your flick. And if you like gore, giant gaping wounds, and the like, Covered in Bees are your band. Nobody has more fun with morbidity than the Bees.

On the packaging for Portland Death Punk, Vol. 2: Louder than Fire, a follow-up to their late-2005 debut, you’ll even find the CiB in zombie profile, sores dripping, mouths set in frowns (it’s no fun being undead). Just as you’ll find fine, hard-driving punk celebrations of death throughout the disc’s 13 tracks (pssst, one’s secret). Maybe the most disturbing of those is “Spiderlady II: Chest Full of Eggs.” But not because of the poppy-punk “whoa-aha-oah” vocals. Because that’s just grody, isn’t it? A lady, who’s a spider, and has a chest full of eggs? It’s sort of bile-inducing.

“I’m having a hard time breathing, but I think I’m going to be okay,” Boo Leavitt belts out. Yeah, that sums it up for me, too.

Never has a living hell sounded so fun (and a little bit silly). The images they call up can be initially distasteful, I’ll admit. But I’m sort of prudish. Most people won’t have any problem immediately reveling in the Bees’ ridiculousness—on “Nightbreed,” not only does Boo offer that, “I’m dressed all in black so you won’t see me stalking/ I wear two pairs of socks so you won’t hear me walking,” but the central riff might actually recall Golden Earring’s “Radar Love” on purpose. It’s hard to say.

Part of what makes the band so appealing is their technical skill, as well. Accompanying hardcore punkers, Doug Porter (see also: Confusatron) is a nearly absurdly talented guitar player, and his solos on tunes like “Car on Fire with Guns” and “Welcome to Handgun City” recall everyone from Stevie Ray Vaughn to Tony Iommi. On “Ride with Us,” Porter pairs guitar licks in the left and right channels like trains barreling toward a common exchange in a game of chicken. “If you ride with us,” the band remind you, “you ride with death.” And this is of course introduced by handclaps.

If all of those teen-aimed horror movies (the Saw series, The Hills Have Eyes, etc.) showed one ounce of the cheek Covered in Bees carry off, maybe I wouldn’t find them so repulsive. Are we celebrating death, or are we celebrating life? That might sound all religious right of me, but when horror is used just for shock and awe, it’s hard to see the point. Shouldn’t we try to have a little fun with our entertainment?

Covered in Bees sure think so. Why else would they bite Headstart! on the glibly pop “Within the Woods,” drummer Tristan Gallagher setting you up with an ethereal tease then joined in an incessant demand for head-nodding by bassist Ed Porter? Why else would they enjoy Eddie Izzard (a comedian who joked that apiarists must occasionally just scream out: “I’m covered in bees!”)?

Why else would a guy named Boo profess to be genuinely scared of ghosts?

Photo Credit: Still image from this video by Lennyvision