Over the last 15 years, NY art-punks Black Dice have gained a reputation for being both pulverizing and playful, creating brutal, noisy records filled with all kinds of weird and funny and fucked-up sounds produced with a kind of childish recklessness that only those with a real patience for experimentation can appreciate. Like every other Black Dice release, Mr. Impossible — its sixth LP and first for Ribbon Music, home to John Maus and Laura Marling — is loud and messy and notoriously abstruse. But it’s a more compelling listen than the band’s usual jumbled musical madness—this one actually has discernible melodies and some semblance of structure, flirting with pop but never straying too far from their own bizarro world of relentless distortion.
Right off the bat, Black Dice make its new direction known: Opener “Pinball Wizard” (definitely not a Who cover) is easy listening, if you compare it to the rest of the band’s tough back catalog. It even has a recognizable bass line — highly unusual, given their penchant for distorting every instrument to the point where it’s impossible to tell exactly what you’re listening to anymore. Also, the energy levels here are through the roof. Single “Pigs” is as danceable as Black Dice get, with a steady beat and robotic, mangled vocals. These accessible songs are balanced out with some tough listens, though — “Carnitas” is an endlessly looping nightmare and the repetitious chirping of the first two minutes of “Rodriguez” will make you feel like you’re starting to lose your mind.
As usual, there’s very little logic to any of these compositions, and you have to wonder how much of what we’re hearing was carefully planned or the result of some total explosive disaster that someone happened to catch on tape. But no one listens to these freaks for things like cohesion and structure anyway. Always challenging, never compromising, Black Dice prove why it’s the most thrilling noise band around.
Essential tracks: “Pigs”, “Spy Vs Spy”, and “Pinball Wizard”