This is some frustrated shit. Nathan Ventura likes to break things, be that through a gypsy train of overblown clarinets or the thrashing of some garbage harp. For Pucker Up, he’s also smashing some of his own songs, joining with Lee Halpin (Saralee) to kidney-punch previous arrangements. The result is an assault of blunt rhythms, blunt lyrics, and muddled, shifting riffs.
First, the string instrument – it’s some kind of heavily modified guitar, de-tuned to sonic decay points (and perhaps with objects inserted between the strings), making notes more purely percussive and widely bendable. This allows for both the more straight-ahead post-punk in the meat-and-potatoes of “Utopia” and the bouncing nonsense whine of its solo. Ventura’s vocals chant about cum and self-loathing in dissonant, double tracked reciting tones, microtonally hovering and clashing around notes much like the springy strings. Halpin grounds everything with relentless pounding – “Knocking on My Skull” is the adult equivalent of a young boy repeatedly smashing Tonka trucks together with hissing spittle.
The best moments are the least subtle. In “Cowboy of My Dreams,” Ventura endlessly sneers, “I’ve been feeling down” over lax trampoline vibrations, muted, metallic plucks, and broken-mic snare and cymbal. Then there’s the most effective cigarette path-clearing set closer I’ve ever heard, “Music Makes Me Hate Myself.” They’re moments of deep anxiety delivered like lit farts – this record would perfectly soundtrack Trash Humpers, or a Judd Apatow film if he had any balls.