• New Threads – Inactivists release “The War on Jazz Hands” to a hungry public at the Walnut Room

    by  • April 1, 2011 • In Denver Live, Local, Locals Only, NewsThreads, Record Reviews • 0 Comments

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    Inactivists new record, "The War on Jazz Hands"

    The Inactivists celebrate the release of their fifth studio album, "The War on Jazz Hands," at the Walnut Room tonight, April Fool's Day. Enlist and support your troops!

    If there’s one thing we need less of in this world, it’s got to be those annoying flapping fingers at the end of swirling hands, and a more worthy cause for war probably doesn’t currently exist. And yet, as a country, we’re dang near broke. But I already digress . . .

    This sentiment comes from the title of The Inactivists’ latest record, “The War On Jazz Hands.” The Denver band remains one of the local scene’s hidden treasures, and the title’s an adroit summation of their personality and style: playful like They Might Be Giants with an adult humor that hovers around that of Ween, but remains more explicitly juvenile. And yet, they’re always musically complex, diverse and accomplished, in the only way that would ever allow a true theremin artist – in this case the accomplished and extremely talented Victoria Lundy – to fit in.

    Inactivists will be unveiling “The War On Jazz Hands” at the Walnut Room tonight, Friday, April 1st, in a CD release party that will include Little Fyodor and Babushka and The Skivies. Doors are at 9, and tickets are a mere $7 – which is a great deal at thrice the cost!

    Frontman Scot Livingston’s wry, pedestrian humor – a style that at times delves down to a middle school mindset – makes Inactivists’ music more than just banal and giggly party accompaniment (something they come dangerously close to from time to time). The compositions are funk- and jazz-ified mathrock pieces built around rhythms laid down in true art rock form by drummer Kelly Prestridge and bassist Matt Sumner. And, though they often follow a  predictable blueprint- at least lyrically and melodically – it’s that formulaic ease that enhances the juvenile subtext and makes the result both hilarious and palatable.

    From homoerotic ramblings about the life aboard a pirate ship for months at a time – limited of course to male shipmates – in “Rum, Sodomy and the Lash,” to a meditation on a hippy-laden, vegan scenario for the up and coming zombie apocalypse in “Vegan Zombies,” to lounge lizard ranting about personal failure in “I Fail At Life,” The Inactivists seem to have covered a fair swath of the cultural landscape on their new record. And the songs are so much more than just Broadway standup – they’re clearly meditations worthy of comedic koans.

    There’s even a terrifying psychedelic homage to longtime celebrity players on “The Hollywood Squares.” “The Center Square” features a creepily chanted “Charles Nelson Riley” over and over, interspersed with other celebrities like Kitty Carlisle and Lyle Alzado, atop a dizzyingly hypnotic tune that incites a spiral into nauseating visions of afternoon television from the ’70s and ’80s. Livingston, like me, looks to have spent many an hour passing time in front of the show, conniving  ….

    “The Center Square” features a creepily chanted “Charles Nelson Riley” over and over, interspersed with other celebrities like Kitty Carlisle and Lyle Alzado ….

    The group also shows undying support of the Denver scene by covering two local bands’ works: “You Make Me Hard,” by Little Fyodor, and “Defrenistation Imbroglio” by Yerkish. Like all great covers, these two are done in a style all Inactivists’ own, and made into entirely new tunes. “… Hard” is transformed from its frenetically angry and explosive greatness into an equally great – though exponentially more creepy – porn movie soundtrack. “… Imbroglio” creates an atmosphere of political thriller in its portrayal of the demise of a political figure, but Inactivists make the situation seem lighter than the Yerkish version, and more hilarious. And, also like great covers, they both still retain their original angst and promise.

    BONUS: If you buy the CD, be sure to download the free second disc. Built to the tune of a tribute album, the second disc contains reworked versions of all the songs on the first disc – minus the two covers (though they start off with samples of the originals, followed by some truly special hidden treasures).  And, in true satirist style, the band created this disc with some offbeat commentary in mind.

    These aren’t tunes that The Inactivists merely looked to trusted friends and musicians to cover. They’ve all been farmed out to online musician entrepreneurs – or “some of Nashville’s least expensive songwriter demo recording services,” as the band’s website proclaims. And they’ve all been worked, “professionally,” in the fashion of old school demo studios. The results are pretty spectacular. There’s a funkified version of “Vegan Zombies” that easily challenges any blaxploitation film theme, and an over-the-top countrified version of “I Fail At Life,” which is just a tad too close to a potential back-from-the-grave hit for the Billy Ray Cyrus genre, to name a few gems.

    If you want to hear real evidence of the inherent professionalism, combined with over the top verisimilitude, in the song-poem recording industry, get a load of the cover version of the title track. The sexy crooner wrapping what could only be luscious, lipstick-drenched lips around such a smokey and sensuous voice seems deeply, deeply rapt as she sings the anthem with the urgency of a WWII war-bonds pitch. The disc two version of “Press the Space Bar” features a similar performance, complete with a unique pronunciation of the word “cholera,” that makes listening to the entire 4’31″ totally worth it.

    The second disc versions make a collection that holds its own in legitimacy almost as well as the first, actually. As an experiment in satirical humor and social commentary, the two together make a killing statement, and a tremendously satisfying foray into the Zappa-esque world of musical theater.

    Inactivists will be unveiling “The War On Jazz Hands” at the Walnut Room tonight, Friday, April 1st, in a CD release party that will include Little Fyodor and Babushka and The Skivies. Doors are at 9, and tickets are a mere $7 – which is a great deal at thrice the cost!

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