The three members of Columbus, OH's Ishkabibble look like physics majors, but their music sounds like weird science. And although their second album doesn't exactly take it to Cibo Matto food-fetish extremes, Hair Do's & Don'ts seems to betray an obsession with animals: Song titles include "Pass the Turkey," "The Fly," "Go Go Goose," "Lambs & Sheep," and "Chicken on a Stick" (the songs are just as warped as their titles seem to imply). Whether or not that curious preoccupation has anything to do with the guys having grown up, on, or around Midwestern farms is one for the historians, but it's only one of many endearing quirks of the band. Points of reference for their music include, but are not limited to, Talking Heads , Primus , a pinch of Devo , the occasional guitar grind of heavy metal, and the skinny-tied, bug-eyed angularity of new wave, while their songs move from choppy syncopation to robust propulsion in the blink of an eye, with time changes occurring so frequently that they seem wired up to a light switch. Ishkabibble , though, never come off as too clever for their own good. They have a penchant for stretching out a bit, although it rarely seems that way during Hair Do's & Don'ts , because even during the longer instrumental passages, the three instruments move to the same locked-in pulse, but also because the band have a knack for tight, intelligent songwriting that sacrifices nothing in intensity for all its attention deficiencies. The music is, if anything, intense in a tightly wound, caffeinated sort of way. Many of the songs are propelled by John Zuck's gurgling basslines, but the musicianship is high all around. Tim Devine 's guitar playing can be tastefully rhythmic, with chords sprinkled like spotty rain, or it can be a buzz saw cutting a path through a thick wall of sound. Chad Paetznick's drumming has to be virtuosic just to hold the music together into some semblance of structure. He moves seamlessly from ham-fisted pounding to worldbeat and ethnic drumming to tricky, dexterous fills. The vocal trade-off between Devine and Zuck is a perfect fit for the music -- equal parts junk-science chic and geek quirkiness -- and while the lyrics seem mostly like nonsensical goofs, used more in service to the vocals and the music, they actually serve as a nice satirical jab at (and simultaneous tribute to) living in the Midwest. On occasion, Ishkabibble charge into some hyperspeed country picking, as on "Chicken on a Stick," which sounds both humorous and perfectly logical considering their origins. Hair Do's & Don'ts is essentially a heap of fun, but it's an intelligent, astute heap, too. Rarely do artists seem to have as much fun with their music as do Ishkabibble on this album.


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