Updated: Feb 2, 2022
These people don’t like you. Or at least they dislike the general listening public. Or they dislike their neighbours. Either way, every opportunity on Roadhouse’s latest release, Supernatural XS, to make what would be a standard blues riff, or new wave style rhythm section, or even just a nice melody, sound strange, abstract and esoteric, they take it. The album is filled with dissonant harmonies, shrill and forceful timbres, and loops that get placed in fragmented musical collages that would make The Beatles’ No. 9 blush.
At times the music sounds almost schizophrenic as it struggles with itself, with different ideas constantly forcing themselves onto the sound stage, the juxtapositions intentionally fraught and unsettling. Dragon High School is a good example, with the unsupported electric guitar solo being constantly replaced with barrages that feel like electronic car crashes, or pulsating motifs arranged with all parts playing in unison, giving it all some Rite of Spring ritualistic feel.
The playing style throughout is harsh and intentionally amateurish. Juvie River Shakedown sounds like some school orchestra made of students who’ve only just started learning their instruments, struggling to stay together with their grating brass and string playing, the guitar strings almost breaking with the harshness that they're plucked with. What could be a cutesy childish melody is hidden behind this intentional dissonance, giving everything an ironic and mocking edge that almost dares you to like it.
Numerous experimental bands can be seen as an influence. The whole record seems to be a hypothetical question: what if Captain Beefheart got into electronica? The monophonic solo in Nude Descending a Fire Escape is especially reminiscent of the rambling solo vocal tracks on Trout Mask Replica, as it reflects the awkward situation described by its title through an irregular electronic melody.
The whole thing is akin to an electronically induced panic attack, with the constant energy of fragmented loops and piercing distortions obviously designed to set you on edge. But to be fair, as panic attacks go, this one is done quite well. It doesn’t take its task lightly but goes full-on with the harshness of the sounds, seeing how frantic they can make the sequencing of the samples whilst transforming pleasant loops into nightmarish collages.
However, they also succeed in places where the music aims to be more spacey and calm, as at the beginning of Reemo Control, where they manage to maintain a dream-like splendour amid floating samples coming and going.
The album’s definitely not for everyone. If you like music that doesn’t shy away from its melodicism or pleasantness, then this isn’t for you. Then again, if you're into some of the more strange sounds out there, this is definitely something of interest. For what it is and tries to be, it succeeds quite well, but doesn’t mind having a bit of fun with the listener in the process. But just don’t play it too loud if you have neighbours.