Flummox- “Phlummoxygen”

Flummox- "Phlummoxygen"

Bands that defy tradition are bands that warrant attention. When something strikes the listener as “weird,” it’s going to leave a mark. Whether enjoyed or not, most people remember the bands that tickle a certain nerve. In high school, I was the kid who devoured bands that sustained themselves from the spring that spawned Primus and Mr. Bungle. Whether it was the billion-stringed bass-driven funk of Nuclear Rabbit, the homemade instruments of the innovative Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, or even just the spastic rock opera-influenced hardcore of Look What I Did, I was constantly seeking out the oddballs. These weren’t the bands you could simply use to start a mosh pit, these were the bands that you really had to listen and focus to appreciate, or at least it seemed that way at the time. In retrospect, while this handful of bands have endured and are still enjoyable to me, a lot of what I worshiped at the time was simply silly for the sake of being silly. With this in mind, I find myself over a decade later listening to Phlummoxygen, the debut album from Tennesseean trio Flummox and I’m pondering the place of weirdness in experimental and heavy music.

Let’s start things off on a relatively obvious note: if this album was not good, I wouldn’t feature it. Plain and simple, I’m not going to waste my time reviewing bad music when I already have to overlook so much good music as it is. Still, with an album like Phlummoxygen on my hands I’m finding myself perplexed. It’s enjoyable, clever, and highly endearing, yet I feel like my own fascination with the stranger side of music has brought me to a point where I’m either jaded or simply expect more of bands these days. In high school this would’ve sat proudly between my Dillinger Escape Plan and Lye By Mistake albums, and honestly, the bizarrely bouncy sounds here still hit a sweet spot for my heart, but this isn’t going to be for everybody. Songs like “Didja Know?” and its cousin “¿Didja Español?” might work for people like me who listen to The Residents in our free time but probably will leave some people scratching their heads. Still, a big part of the album’s charm is in these songs, and the elements in the heavier songs that might have sounded out of place make more sense when the listener can tell that the band has tongue firmly in cheek at even the most aggressive moments. It’s especially interesting to me that Flummox spends so much time locking into solid grooves before deviating into silliness. I don’t think that they display goofiness for the sake of being goofy; it’s quite clear that these three fellas are quite talented and having a wonderful time playing together. Still, I think that the album works best when the absurdity is dialed down a bit and channeled into funky grooves that blend into the more rock and metal oriented sounds, like on the seriously fun “Custodian Ralph” or the seemingly endless anthem that follows in “Ancestors: Earth Removal.” In general, these songs sound like they were lifted out of context of time and space, as these guys could have easily been successful in the early nineties alongside the many funk-infused Bungle peers or as creepy relatives to the growing math metal scene that developed towards the beginning of the aughts.

With a tape coming out this Spring on Tridroid Records (no exact date given yet, but I’ll update this when it’s announced), it’ll be interesting to see how the heavy metal community (to which the label primarily caters) will react. This is by no means the label’s only left of center release and will likely win over new fans aplenty for band and label alike, but I feel that it’s going to hit home with a particularly niche fanbase instead of achieving widespread success. Is this a bad thing? I really don’t feel so, as many of my favorite acts have existed on the fringes of “cult act” status instead of being big stars. Still, I really hope that there are enough people willing to get flippy floppy with Flummox, because I’d love to see some good-spirited funky eccentricity breaking out amid the trend of very serious metal acts reigning supreme. If we can’t all have a bit of fun sometimes, is it even worth it anymore? Flummox doesn’t seem to think so, and I’m damn glad they exist. The songs “Flummoxing Act I,” “Custodian Ralph,” “Planet Cancer,” and “Flummoxing Act II” can be heard on the band’s ReverbNation page, but that site doesn’t allow me to embed so you’ll have to click through for samples.