In the liner notes to Music To Start a Cult To, California desert-based group Gram Rabbit thank both Jesus and The Devil. It could seem like irony. It might seem like a big joke. But when you listen to the disc, you get the feeling that the trio really is being pulled in several different directions. Maybe it has something to do with their isolation way out in Joshua Tree, as the constant heat gives it a feeling not to dissimilar to Hell. Furthermore, it’ll drive you crazy if you prefer your climates a little more temperate. But it’s unlikely that Gram Rabbit are actually crazy. In fact, they seem to have invented a strange mythology involving Biblical and Satanic themes and, um, bunnies. That said, their music is as strange and off-kilter as the themes surrounding them.
“Dirty Horse,” the leadoff track, is the sort of song you’d expect from a band straight from the desert, all folk-country and spooky ghost-town harmonies. But within one transition, things are turned around instantly. “Cowboy-Up,” the following track, is dark industro-dance that recalls Curve a la Come Clean. At this point, anything seems fair game, and the nearly Beck-like psych-pop of “Kill A Man” follows, with a disturbingly catchy refrain of “I see, I kill, I see, I kill.” But, in a complete 360, the band goes back to a combination of haunting Southwestern rock and Wax Trax dance music in “Disco #2.” Honestly, it’s a little hard to tell what’s going on here. And it doesn’t really matter. I’m not sure Gram Rabbit are supposed to make sense.
So they do folk and dance, but what else could they possibly throw in? How about lounge? “Witness” is a space-age samba with plenty of the creepy overtones of the preceding songs, but just the slightest bit of kitsch. “Lost in Place” is where the album starts to get really interesting. From quirky space folk, the band changes musical clothes again, trying on a piano driven ballad with some lovely string samples for texture’s sake. Shortly thereafter, the band plays themselves backward in “I & sesuJ,” returning to their weird-ass Bibilcal themes. But “Cowboys & Aliens” gets extra points for rhyming “midget porn” with “candy corn.”
Gram Rabbit seems a bit off their collective nut. And they could be. But it could also be that they’ve come up with the pop music equivalent to a David Lynch film. Things just aren’t right here. In fact, they’re downright disturbing. But goddamn if you don’t want to keep listening. And though the ride may be of the white-knuckle variety, it’ll prove to be worthwhile in the end. Just stay out of the heat.
Curve – Come Clean
12 Rounds – My Big Hero
Garbage – Version 2.0
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.