A joyous rampage
A lot of different things go into making a band good. Maybe they have an innovative songwriter who pens evocative lyrics, maybe they’re searingly technical, or perhaps they find spaces and sounds that you didn’t believe could have existed. Most bands can really only pull off one of these, and only truly great bands can tackle all three at the same time. Battles may not have you on the verge of tears with their latest record, Juice B Crypts, but make no mistake, they excel so thoroughly in the other two categories you’ll forget sooner than later.
The first thing that jumps out at the listener on album opener “Ambulance,” is how grippingly fun this song is. An opening keyboard section bleeps and bloops in a way that almost feels mocking, and is certainly not self-serious. It’s something you’d hear in a children’s film, or perhaps droning out of a mobile, but the way that Battles interprets this is strikingly innovative. With the simple addition of bass and guitar, they turn a goofy, little ditty into something worthy of a dance competition, and even in an office setting it’s impossible to sit still.
This is an ongoing theme throughout the album. It’s custom crafted to keep you giddy. Even down to song titles, which include both “ A Loop So Nice…” and “They Played it Twice” (back to back of course). Clearly Battles intended for this record to be a great time, and in that regard, they have fully succeeded. The loop on “A Loop So Nice…” was indeed worthy of a second interpretation. “IZM,” which features the incomparable Shabazz Palaces, paints a lazy, meandering beat worthy of its rappers.
Anyone looking at this record from a technical perspective won’t be disappointed either. Juice B Crypts isn’t as visceral or urgent as Mirrored or La Di Da Di, but what is lacks in sharp edges it makes up for in bouncy organic shapes. It’s like a math-rock record from Tuneyards, who collaborate on the final two tracks, “Last Supper on Shasta Pt.1” and “Last Supper on Shasta Pt.2.” Every second of it is completely delightful. The best way to describe it is going to a rave in an adult-sized bouncy castle. Once you put it on you’ll never want to leave.
Sometimes it’s good to remember all of what goes into making the music we listen to. Critics have a tendency to dismiss the technical proficiency required to make music, instead of leaning toward the sexier narrative and feel elements. But when a band or artist nails a number of these categories it demands notice. Juice B Crypts asserts that Battles was, is and almost certainly will be at the top of their game for years to come. Now they’re just doing it in a way that is more fun, relaxed and tight.