The latest album from Ill Ease – the solo project of former New Radiant Storm King drummer Elizabeth Sharp – is titled The Exorcist. While the coy names of her previous releases Greatest Tits and Live at the Holiday Sin make me giggle, the new album elicited a certain amount of dread. Yes, I’m still haunted by the film of the same name, memories of the movie inevitably crawling on my flesh. The next time I see it I may need to seek the aid of a young priest and an old priest to comfort me (as the actor said to the bishop).
The album The Exorcist, however, doesn’t leave the same creepy feeling as the movie. It sounds like a dimly lit room, but not necessarily a foreboding one. Sharp’s voice recalls a mumbling version of Mac McCaughan’s nasal hooting rather than the bellowing rasp of Mercedes McCambridge. The songs themselves tend to have more in common with Sonic Youth than the eerie “Tubular Bells.” And while it does tend toward glumness and gloominess, Ill Ease’s The Exorcist won’t creep you out so long as you don’t mind an audio accompaniment to Sharp’s own photography of grainy, rusting urban sprawl.
Buzzing guitar and bass open the album on “Jersey-O-Matic.” The added touch to the noisy appliance whirs and crashing drums of the chorus is Sharp’s rhythmic drone of “ba-da bum ba-da bum bum ba-da.” The song that sounds like a Ron Popeil product is followed by the shut-eye slacker swill of “Winter in Hell.” The initially spare song is soon filled by Sharp making siren sound effects and firing off an off-key, off-putting but somehow appropriate high note. Similar cooing is heard on the jangling “You Know You Make Me Wanna Hate You,” Sharp playfully stretching out the “you.”
The rolling bassline and lazy drums of “The Skank” set the stage for a sleazy summer party where you can leave your hang-ups at the door and throw up in the sink. While painting a picture of this shindig where crusty old men hang with cranked out college girls, it turns out that someone’s something’s sister or other has gone upstairs with the title character.
“Malfunction Junction,” has a dancey function with its bubbly bassline and and relentless tumbling drums. The centerpiece of the album – aptly about exorcising inner-demons proclaims “Destruction is alright but what I really like / Is self-destructing all day and night.” “Walking Catastrophe” is similarly groove-inducing, though it transforms from a naughty, sexy slide into an eerie, dissonant, haunted casino jive.
Maybe the next time I watch The Exorcist I’ll listen to The Exorcist at the same time. It may just take the edge off pea soup, twisting heads and my lapsed Catholicism. or it probably won’t. But even if Ill Ease’s latest won’t fit over the film that shares its name, it’s still a good lo-fi soundtrack for an overcast, hungover weekend.
Pavement – Slanted and Enchanted (it is kinda Pavement-y)
Sonic Youth – Goo
Superchunk – Come Pick Me Up