Oftentimes much can be explained about a band by their artwork: how serious the music will be; the pretensions of the artist; whether it will be loud or quiet. Godcaster are one such case, the outlandish and colourful art for their debut album Long Haired Locusts – releasing on September 4th via Ramp Local – being so emblematic of the personality of the Philadelphia band.
Designed by frontman Judson Kolk, it depicts the band members as feral insect-like creatures, lost – or perhaps not lost – in a mysterious and otherworldly landscape. Put another way, it looks like the work of a person who ingested several handfuls of magic mushrooms before illustrating. The fifteen tracks that form Long Haired Locusts match the artwork for intensity, even exceeding it. Godcaster are proudly loud and experimental and their songs are loose and ludicrous.
Formed in 2015, the band went through several reincarnations to reach its structure now: Kolk is joined by David Mcfaul (keys), Von Lee (flute, vocals), Lindsay Dobbs (trombone, vocals), Bruce Ebersole (bass), and Sam Pickard (drums). Unsurprisingly the band thrive in the live setting, where their ecstatic experimentation can blossom fully, but the record does its best to capture even a sliver of this.
The album as such is an assault on the senses, mixing whimsical psychedelic elements with crusty progressive rock. They are MGMT if they had never discovered synths and instead had locked themselves in a Pennsylvania basement; they are the young American cousins of Australia’s King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard.
“Even Your Blood is Electric” forces the listener into proceedings, dazed and shook. The unleashing of noise sounds like they’re trying to exhaust their instruments out before they’ve even got started. “All the Feral Girls in the Universe” was a previously released single and it’s a delightful and fantastic theatrical performance. The appreciative “Don’t Make Stevie Wonder” is a pun-filled ode to an unlikely source of inspiration: “Don’t make Stevie Wonder wonder if he’s appreciated”; its melody is immediately memorable, its playful funk wiggling its way and settling itself in one’s mind.
The vocals are either erratic or electric. On a song like “Apparition of Mother Mary In my Neighbourhood”, Kolk’s jumpy and excitable delivery is anxiety-inducing; when Lee’s falsetto takes over on “Sexy Heffer”, her angelic whisper is mysterious and sultry. It’s on a track like “Dirtbike Bike (Vaccine Girl)” though that one fully expects the deep voice of Frank Zappa to appear over the funky and rollicking rhythm instead.
Long Haired Locusts is let down at times by the quality of the sound. The album was recorded live-to-tape, and the raw distortion can be overbearing, the fuzz too sloppy and needless. When they give into the noise in this way, it’s less finely-honed. The thunderous guitars on “Serpentine Carcass Crux Birth” lend it a hard thrash atmosphere; “Christ In Capsule Form” is chaotic and loud punk reminiscent of early Deerhoof. “The Skull!!!” has the sharpest pace, flying by, a pointless interjection.
There are moments where the noise is reduced, if only slightly. The smooth “Sassy Stick Boy” is a weird romantic anthem, ballad-by-Godcaster. “Escape From the Challenger Deep” is the calmest respite, albeit brief: the sleepy and sweet tune, with individual performances again reminiscent of Deerhoof, lulls one into a false state of security before the band unleash their usual thrash after two minutes.
“Rapturous Climax” is an ironic name for the album’s closing song, a sign of Godcaster’s self-aware subversion. The instrumentation stops and starts several times, before quieting down to the barest elements. Who would have thought, after all, that after the pulsating noise of the past fourteen tracks, a twinkling nursery sound would end things?
“You can touch the sky, if you really try”, a voice sings on “Bingo Bodies / Long Haired Locusts”. This is, essentially, what Godcaster stands for musically. There is no grey realism, only sonic exploration that reaches as high as it can.