Thrones - _Day Late, Dollar Short_
(Southern Lord, 2005)
by: T. DePalma (7.5 out of 10)
Joe Preston's Thrones is a surrealist shade of the amp exploding rock milieu proffered by such notables as Sun O)), Earth and High on Fire, all of whom have counted Preston as a member at one time or another (and of course The Melvins, who famously disowned him). When not moonlighting as traveling hand for others, all the attention seems to focus on this darling project, free of conforming to others' visions and boundaries. This is where it gets interesting, because there's something slightly terrifying when Mr. Preston gets to work, a quirky naturalism and unpredictability that lends an air of foreboding to each track; a mixture of fantasy junk, low frequency drones and jocose effects. We tensely wonder where he, like the sable young boy clutching a hare on the cover, is headed next.

_Day Late, Dollar Short_ is the best Thrones release I've heard to date. It's also not a new release per se, but a collection of unreleased and 7" material from 1994 to 2001 compiled into nineteen tracks. Because of the nature of these songs, you won't find any progression in sound throughout the years. Variations abound, this is primarily experimental rock knowing no ups and downs, no binary criteria; it just goes on and keeps getting weirder track to track. As a gauge, a method of control, time is irrelevant because, like ambient music, Thrones exists only as mood and equipment charged by the mind of its creator. Did I mention Joe Preston is also utterly insane?

"The protagonist of a Sunday morning television program on KTVU channel 2 from Portland, Bumpity was a bucktooth talking mound of grass. Accompanied by his right hand man, a shy earthworm named Fred, the Bumpity show provided weekly bouts of confusing and limp children's entertainment. This is a tribute to their theme. All hail."

The dry humor found in the liner notes particularly enhances or detracts from the experience, but gives us a small sense of a design outside of the compositions. While nothing suggests that this isn't thought out after all, the inspirations behind it can only give rise to the unconventional. The aforementioned "Epicus Doomicus Bumpitus" is a towering instrumental keyboard piece that gives off a cinematic vibe of Phillip Glass (revelation) mixed with Angelo Badalamenti (sinister romance). The more guitar oriented tracks are no less elastic in their approach. Over the course of an hour we're introduced to the bleak the static dirges of "The Suckling", punk-rock of "Young Savage" (Ultravox cover), industrial mechanics of "Coal Sack" and mock period pieces such as "Silvery Colorado" and a cover of The Who's "A Quick One While He's Away", featuring barber shop quartet style vocals and weirding synthesizer. A few exceptional instrumental pieces are also present in the monster "Obolus" (scored for the unreleased Italian film "Forest of Death") and "The Walk". Both are more ambient / noise in nature, while another and subsequently final track, "Nostros Algos", brings together a full band sound, wrenching mud-heavy harmonies from the guitar's roaring overdrive.

The most haunting feature of this disc however is a pair of covers that approach pure genius in their retelling. The witchy intro of Rush's "Oracle" done with only a small keyboard effect and gentle voice blowing out the first stanza becomes a march of bass overdrive and pompous vocals teetering on the verge of Spinal Tap clumsiness before fizzling out and onto a cover of Blue Oyster Cult's "Black Blade" done with less ornamentation but given a heavy boost from Preston's axe.

It's fitting that the disc ends the way it does, with a brief yet epic conclusion that sums up the entire post-psychedelic nihilism that's unfolded, in a way now greeting us like the stare of Kubrick's star-child in "2001". Perhaps because it informs us of the extent music has been imprisoned within literalism and comfortable memes, or perhaps it just sounds good with a bottle of gin, Thrones is a rare band scavenging the stereo landfill for dreams and ideas disposed of and forgotten. Now, nurtured by the madness of one man tinkering with his pedals and strings; summoning voices through feedback, a message from the penumbra arrives; not easily understood but moving nonetheless.

For more information about the Bumpity show visit this website.


(article published 12/8/2005)

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