In spite of repeated attempts to give them a go and try to hear what so many others hear, there are a few highly regarded ‘classic’ artists who I’ve completely failed to ‘get’s and to therefore enjoy. One of those is Frank Zappa, the musicianship of whom always seemed to be in the service of, well, the musicians, at best, or the joke, at worst, rather than in the service of the actual music. In their episodic disjointedness and arch humour-irony, glassglue splutter along in what feels like a very similar manner to me.
Which is not to say that the music on Fantods sounds much like Frank Zappa. glassglue have too much of the post-punk era running through their veins to allow that. Production is generally bone-dry in that late-70s/early-80s agit manner, though this does have the effect of making interesting production choices, such as the incredible snare sound in ‘One Degree Below Zero’ or the gated reverb on the hi-hats in ‘Toleration’, stand out and give the overall production a roundness. The staggering rhythms, the atonal guitar flashes, the about-face tempo changes and time signatures, however, give the music its zappa-ness. I find this kind of thing a bit distancing, personally. It feels like cleverness for its own sake, holding me at arms length from truly entering into the music. I’m not being enveloped by what I’m listening to, rather simply spectating. Much more successful, then, are tracks such as ‘Like The Shadow Of A Fly’ whose 6/8 groove is, in contrast, quite inviting.
But, the elephant in the room is the thing that really gives glassglue its distinctiveness – the voice of singer Marcel Stoetzler. He generally potters about atonally, or rather, in different keys to the musicians, seemingly creating his meandering (non)melodies as he goes along. This is done with an arch-Berlin cabarÃ©t affectation, one of those voices that forces you to one side or the other of the love/hate divide. It so dominates the band sound and gives it its character that it is impossible to be simply indifferent to it. You can probably tell on which side I fall. Coupled with lyrics of deliberate banality it makes for a polarising front-piece. “All I want is to look at your face/I don’t want to sleep, I’m too tired to eat/I don’t even want to write this song/The only thing I want is to look at your face” from ‘Too Tired’ being as indicative as any passage of the subject matter and delivery across the album. It’s definitely meant to be joking and ironically humourous, but that doesn’t negate the fact that it is banality being sung/spoken in a grating manner. It’s a deliberate ugliness across the release which extends to the artwork and text design which is, none-the-less, ugly.
While I can hear little things I really like and I can stand back and see what glassglue is aiming to do, I just have difficulty actually enjoying Fantods. For me, it is too affected to let me in. I can only observe what’s going on, not experience it. In spite of a cerebral understanding, I don’t find much pleasure in the album. But then, who am I to condemn – there are millions of people who love the music of Frank Zappa.