Chewbacalypse Now is an awesomely ambitious record that comes from the heart of an extremely imaginative three-headed beast that calls itself Confusatron. This little-known Portland, Maine-based band has taken an approach to instrumental rock that is deep, twisted, bizarre, topped with meaty hooks, great musicianship, and a healthy dose of self-interest in order to produce a genuinely refreshing and special record that hits hard from a distant world. This is not a thirty-second record that will reveal itself entirely at first listen, or even reveal itself at all, for until you see the whole you can't hear the pieces, and it's the pieces that move this record from metal to country to jazz seamlessly and splendidly.
Reared on a healthy dose of action-figures, cartoons, progressive rock records, and quite a bit of elbow grease and home-recording know how, Jason LaFrance (bass), Doug Porter (guitar/vocals), and Adam Cogswell (drums) prove that idol hands are indeed the devil's playground by producing a debut that is unlike anything else, period. This record reaches into everyone's pie and pulls out ingredients you didn't know existed. Primus, Mike Patton, Frank Zappa, and the Transformers, to name but a few, come together to build the walls that house Confusatron, and what a house it is. "I don't know how you came by this record, but you are now embarked upon a journey that must certainly lead you to change your life forever! If you were never a special person, you are a special person now." So begins the Confusatron experience, please kick back and let this three-piece from nowhere rock you.
Immediately after the above narration, spoken over the opening music to 2001: A Space Odyssey, Cogswell clicks the tempo on his sticks and the band jumps into the first song, "Turboface", thirteen minutes of self-indulgence that never drags nor bores for a second. Melodies come and go, tempos change with a thought, prerecorded oddities float here and there, vocal screams happen, and whatever sounds were also available are thrown into this truly bizarre tune, an appropriate opening to a truly bizarre recording. The fact that this song was recorded in fragments and pasted together just adds to the Confusatron experience for themes are never rejected or forgotten, and you never feel that there's a loss of focus or intention. Furthermore, it is always an interesting decision for a band to put the longest song as the first on an album, but "Turboface" sets up the rest of Chewbacalypse Now perfectly. "Inspector Pecker" follows the metal smorgasbord with a pseudo-ska feel complete with a 'Nintendo pause' and saxophone solo that will pull you further into the diverse landscape of sound that is still, unbelievably, created by a band of three, and if this song came from left field, then "Preparation F" came from the great beyond, or off of a Tool record, but either or, it's not something you'll find down the street. The most well thought-out song on the record, "Preparation F," has some truly awesome moments where the listener finally tunes into this band and its vision. The last two songs on the record (there are five songs with three segments of samples and noise, "Master Sheik," "Chewbacalypse Now" complete with a Twin Peaks sound bite, thumbs up guys, as well as a secret track) are even more different than the previous three which is still hard to believe on the first listen through up through the twentieth. "A.C.W.A.P.S.I.O.N." is straight slop-rock until the two-minute mark when it opens up into a spacey, surf-rock feel that is just gorgeous juxtaposed to the crunch it interrupts. But as suddenly as the section begins it ends, allowing Porter to show off his scream, which is used sparingly on the record although it is extremely effective and balls to the wall. The final song "Gauntlet of the Trailer Park", is a humorously sad, beer drinking country tune that somehow moves into a dramatic and dark metal section which then somehow goes back into the country style of the beginning. Confused? So am I. This record is awesome.
What makes this band work so well are the chops of these three guys and their complete submission to their imaginations. LaFrance has grown up listening to great bass players which shows in his choice of tone, his technique, and his ability to fill the bottom as well as create space for the drums, guitars, and whatever else is sounding. Cogswell plays so many different styles on this album while exercising great taste in terms of what parts of the kit to play, that my head hurts keeping up with him at times. And Porter, whom I can only assume is the man with the hooks, plays it all with blissful abandonment, however, I wish he would beef up his tone and add a little more meat to the plate, but he is the connection that rounds out this triangle, and believe me, that is not a contradiction in the Confusatron universe. Those with fear in your hearts beware, for Confusatron makes music for the bold and daring soul.