red lights


Quirky rock spawned from Elvis' hip

Head Of Femur

Head Of Femur - Ringodom Or Proctor
(Greyday Productions)
3 1/2 (out of 5 stars)

Reviewed: Nov. 24, 2003

Review by Tony Bonyata

To name yourself after a human bone doesn't seem a very rock 'n' roll thing to do, but when its the Head of Femur (the bone that cameramen were instructed not to film below during Elvis Presley's third performance on the Ed Sullivan Show back in January of 1957) it couldn't be more fitting. This Chicago (by way of Nebraska) trio not only manages to tap into the spirit, but also the sex that has oozed from rock music ever since Elvis first shook his hips in public over forty-five years ago.
On their debut album Ringodom Or Proctor, Head Of Femur, led by guitarist Mike Elsener, keyboardist Ben Armstrong and drummer Matt Focht (from the band Bright Eyes), deliver an elaborate calling card, filled with inspired multi-layered orchestrations over quirky pop numbers that lean towards the Flaming Lips at times, and at others the Brit-pop band Pulp, but most often Brian Eno at a time when eccentric pop ditties were the preference, before his experimentations into discreet, ambient soundscapes for airports and water closets. All of these influences loosely hold their hands together through a sugary, psychedelic production ride that travels from The Beatles' PepperLand to WonkaLand before you're able to say "everlasting gobstopper."
Their affinity to Eno is most apparent, but not wholly confined to an unabashed version of his goose-stepping silly symphony "The True Wheel," which Head of Femur pulls off magnificently as they ride closely to the original rather than trying to reinvent Eno's own round, spokey thing for themselves. With their unconventionally slanted approach on "Curve That Byrd," with its rubbernecking bassline, swelling strings and angst-filled vocals over calming harmonies, as well as the breathy accordion, sparkling bells, proud melody and comical lyrics on "Me, My Dad, My Cousin, and...Ronnie" and downright giddy, slapstick three-part harmonies on the infectious "Science Needed A Medical Man," the music from this band is an about-face from the current garage and '70s metal sounds that are starting to creep back into the mainstream.
Although the core of the band only consists of three, on the road the trio expands its members to anywhere from seven to ten players, pulling many of them from bands such as Bright Eyes, Commander Venus, Lullaby For The Working Class and Mayday, among others. Thankfully, they also utilize many of these veteran musicians on Ringodom Or Proctor Thought-provoking, strange and joyous, it's about time the cameras plunged all the way down to expose this Head Of Femur. Take 'em down, boys, it's gonna be a really big shew (sic).

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