Album Review: Goon Moon - Licker's Last Leg
by Doug Moore

Rating (1-6):
Production - 4.5
Songwriting - 5.0
Musicianship - 5.0

I must admit, when I signed up to review Licker’s Last Leg, it was out of morbid curiosity. After all, Twiggy Ramirez (of Marilyn Manson/Nine Inch Nails fame, although he’s given up the goofy pseudonym and gone back to his birthname, Jeordie White) is Goon Moon’s most immediately recognizable name, and though I’m no fan of his past work, I couldn’t help but wonder what he’d come up with when left to his own devices. Though I initially expected some heavily-synthesized, chorus-flocked goth rock tomfoolery, I began to take Goon Moon a little more seriously when I found out that the band also includes Chris Goss of Masters of Reality and drummer Zach Hill of Hella. Though I’m not sure how it escaped my attention, the band’s first mini-LP—I Got a Brand New Egg-Laying Machine—came out in 2005. That disc was an endearingly weird but gratingly unfocused fuzz-rock acid spasm, but Licker’s Last Leg displays far more cohesiveness and discipline than their first effort. Sporting a far more song-oriented approach and an impressively eclectic mishmash of rock styles, this disc is a novel but still listenable example of what Mike Patton’s Ipecac label does best.

One of the factors that rendered I Got A Brand New Egg-Laying Machine less than perfect was the sacrifice of memorable tunage in favor of musical fluidity. Though Zach Hill’s wild jazz drum acrobatics were impressive and the array of odd textures on display was mesmerizing, there was also very little for the listener to really cling to amidst the sonic wackiness afoot. Goon Moon have changed all that this time around; where there was once inscrutable progginess, there is now an almost Zappa-esque sense of quirky-but-catchy vocal melody permeating virtually every song. This is apparent from opener “Apple Pie,” with its bizarre half-mournful half-sarcastic lyrics and infectious chorus, to the climactic 10 minute album centerpiece “The Golden Ball,” which jumps from sample-inflected pop rock to grating noise stomps to nervous fuzz rock riffing underneath a “Day In the Life”-style lyrical narrative. Speaking of Britpop, there’s also a warmly distorted cover of The Bee Gees classic “Every Christian Lion Hearted Man Will Show You,” which is surprisingly loyal aside from its dense guitar tone and Hill’s decidedly more elaborate drum work. Though Goss’s desert rock roots do break through the mire of weird pop from time to time, Goon Moon only sound like they truly deserve the ‘stoner’ tag on a few odd occasions (“My Machine,” “Feel Like This,” “Lay Down”). The vast majority of the time, though, the band slings intriguing combinations of multiple musical schools along the lines of “Hardcore Q3,” which combines a sleazy back-alley bass groove with a Pixies-esque mumbled nonsense word chorus. Tack on guest appearances by Josh Homme, Josh Freese, and Dave Catching (all desert rock luminaries) and a very capable production job and you about have the shape of Licker’s Last Leg.

It should go without saying that this album is not for anyone who requires that their music fit comfortably into genre boxes. It’s also safe to say that Desert Sessions devotees and Patton/Zorn weirdness junkies will probably like this a hell of a lot more than Manson or NIN fans. Though I really wouldn’t classify this as metal in any conventional way, the frequently jagged structures and sheer cockeyedness of this disc could sell it to fans of metal’s more lunatic fringe. Not a world-beater even amongst the avant-garde, but definitely an unusually successful and enjoyable supergroup effort.