Coming straight out of the Big Easy, The Other Planets’ debut CD, Discrete Manipulations, packs quite a skewed and whimsical musical wallop. Combining vintage ’60s psychedelic avant-jazz, comedy, social commentary and a myriad of electronic noises, The Other Planets have concocted an intensely engaging sound that propels the sextet’s self-described “eclectic gonzo musical ensemble.”
Led by percussionist/vocalist/composer Anthony Cuccia (along with “conceptual puppet-mastery and derangement counseling from Dr. Jimbo Walsh), The Other Planets’ bread and butter is a miasma of quirky melodies and off-time rhythms sprinkled with a healthy dose of instruments (bass, drums/percussion, vibraphone, bass/baritone sax, guitar and group vocals), disconcerting synthesizer noise and snarky Zappa-isms reminiscent of a more song-oriented Need New Body.
While it’s certainly true that the group owes a great deal of debt to the Mothers of Invention, I never once found Discrete Manipulations to be some half-assed attempt to emulate Señor Zappa, but rather a natural mingling of different styles from a group of a educated, talented musicians with a serious idiosyncratic streak.
The songs seem to jump all over the place like an excited kid in a Toys-R-Us. Tracks like “Ruger: The Punishment: The Tribute” and “How Do I Get Her To Give Me What I Want?” brim with exuberance and self-assured playing from all parties involved, while collages like the anti-Bush screed “Gosh, Pop. I’m Sure Dumb” and “I Hope I Don’t Die Counting Money” show an earnest left-wing slant that grounds Discrete Manipulations’ more fanciful songs.
The album’s highlight, however, has to be opener “Will You Adhere?” — a rip-roaring ditty about what could either be a subservient relationship, some political rant or both. And with a bridge straight off of the Zappa album We’re Only In It For The Money, I guarantee this song will not leave your brain for the remainder of the century.
As The Other Planets’ bio states, “This is a band for the composer, the improviser and the serious American beer drinker,” and I think this sums up the band’s modus operandi perfectly. Imagine an experimental rock band that, through the power of fun-filled tunes, has the ability to reach listeners from all walks of life regardless of their knowledge of Stravinsky or Varèse.
The effect is something along the lines of The Simpsons (at least pre-13th season Simpsons): The Other Planets can get away with their brand of esoteric, politically-charged avant-rock without pandering to the lowest segment or dumbing down their approach for the chin-stroking set and, in doing so, will no doubt take over the world.