There’s something oddly endearing about a band who call themselves The Intelligence while titling the first two songs on their album “Bong Life” and “Tuned to Puke.” Then again, The Intelligence is just that perfect blend of smartly written rock songs smeared in lowbrow muck. They’re like an Armani suit with Batman underpants, or a Buñuel film as performed by puppets. Or, more literally, they’re a wicked garage rock band with all of the throwback thrills of surf rock and the abrasive artfulness of post-punk.
On sixth album Males, Lars Finberg and the latest permutation of his ever-evolving band streamline their jagged, Cramps-influenced avant garde swagger down to its most direct and most ass kicking, relatively speaking. Finberg has a penchant for the off-kilter, and Males is by no means a straightforward album. Where Finberg & Co. excel is in making sublimely twisted two-minute garage punk songs that balance the hook-laden with the kitschy or bizarre. And they sometimes involve bongs or puke.
Leadoff track “Bong Life” starts with near silence, leaving just over a minute for the band to bang out a frantic, Wire-like punk rock rave up that culminates in chaotic electronic noises. “Sailor Life” is a more elaborate and tuneful take on a similar approach, with ascending surf guitar riffs acting as a sort of melodic vortex, sucking the listener in with their hypnotic power. The obnoxiously titled “Like Like Like Like Like Like Like,” with its matching lyrical refrain, builds on a massive and memorable riff, before “Estate Sales” ushers in some silly space age synth. And “Mom or a Parking Lot” is undoubtedly the best of the bunch, a tribal stomp with xylophone backing and the oddly heartwarming message, “Rebel all you want/ I suggest you call mom.”
It’s hard to know, sometimes, what to make of The Intelligence. They’re a little jokey, a little snotty, but in they end, they’re mostly just a really damn good rock ‘n’ roll band. Should they happen to be interested in scoring some Buñuel puppet theater, all the better.
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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.