Lutra Lutra- ‘Psychopath and the Philosopher’ Review

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

This Saturday, Dec. 15th, Lutra Lutra will release their new album, ‘Psychopath and the Philosopher’ at the Polar Park Brewing Co. You can get your tickets to the event here.

‘Psychopath and the Philosopher’ is the group’s first full length LP, and follows their 2016 debut EP, the self-titled ‘Lutra Lutra’. I reviewed the EP here, and have kept it in rotation long after the duties of the reviewer were passed. The funky grooves and witty lyricism have kept me coming back time and again, so when guitarist and lead vocalist Garreth Burrows offered me the chance to review the new LP, I was happy to oblige.

Lutra Lutra are an Edmonton, AB, based band that have been making a respectable mark on the local scene. For more about their live shows, see my review here. Garreth’s sister Katrina Burrows acts as the groups keyboardist and backup vocalist, with Denis Frigon on the drums, and Will Smith playing the bass.

Being an ardent fan of the EP, I must admit some apprehension when Garreth explained that this album was going to be a bit different. While the band’s lineup is unchanged since the EP, Lutra Lutra opted this time to work with a professional producer with a lot of unique input into the sound. This, he explained, meant less of a free-wheeling jazzy sound, and more hard-hitting rock.

With that in my mind, I sat down to discover just what sort of beast Lutra Lutra had grown into on ‘Psychopath and the Philosopher’.

1. Psychopath and the Philosopher-

The album opens with its title track, ‘Psychopath and the Philosopher’. From the get-go, it’s clear Garreth meant what he said. The titular track brings a powerful, enduring engine of sound. The lyrics match the more in-your-face tone—conjuring images of domestic battery and psychological abuse which Garreth explains are inspired by his cats.

The sound is harder, faster, and a great deal more layered. It’s a clear evolution from the group’s debut EP, yet, Lutra Lutra still maintain their jam-band vibe, trailing off into long, groovy bridges before slamming back into their hard-rocking refrains.

This newfound intensity is further reinforced with the follow-up track, ‘Devils Give’.

2. Devils Give-

This track gives merit to the ‘Philosopher’ in the album’s title. ‘Devils Give’ opens up with a softer tone, slowly building intensity towards a chorus which laments feeling lost amid the moral confusion of modern living.

This track reminds us of Lutra Lutra’s well established ability to mix catchy riffs with potent ponderings, as it waxes about the constraints of conventional ethical weathervanes and the relative freedom of less constrained living.

‘I know we’re all deranged, when devils give and angels take, though we’ll pay for our mistakes…’. This song brings a more contemporary focus than past songs have, and we’ll see more of that to come.

3. Two States-

‘Two States’ was written by drummer Denis Frigon during his time in the middle-east, and opens with a quick riff of guitar and drums before Garreth opens into lyrics of wanderlust and yearning for more. The chorus reflects on the turmoil of seeing both sides of difficult situations.

‘Two States’ moves fast, and its energetic rhythm keeps the song moving with the intensity of its subject matter. ‘Falling to pieces all the time,’ the chorus ends, and on it’s final refrain Garreth’s visceral scream is a chilling exclamation point on the song’s compelling journey.

4. Lost the War-

If ‘Two States’ opened subtly, this one explodes. Straight into the title line with a kick of the drums and a heavy bassline, it stampedes out of the gate with a catchy groove. The song’s immediate catchiness is amplified by the regular harmonizing of organist Katrina Burrows.

The previous tone of sorrow and futility carries over into this song—an interesting contrast to the recurring themes of light and better times on the group’s EP. ‘I can’t seem to believe, everything I read, And it’s hurting my head, it hurts my head, I should have stayed in bed. We’ve lost the war,’ is the familiar refrain of this song, but if the implications are sombre, this dirge maintains the charge of its rhythm section and playful guitar work to ensure this tale of loss is moving in both senses of the word.

5. The Apology-

Building slowly in volume and intensity, ‘The Apology’ is a break down confession of a desperate voice, realizing how little regret is worth, while feeling all the greater the weight of their past.

The song moves with a steadfast intensity, bringing its sorrowful condemnation unceasingly. This is punctuated wonderfully by a playful moment when the music slows and Katrina Burrows softly sings, ‘It’s not the real me,’ capturing beautifully the themes of self-loathing and fear of responsibility echoing through the song.

6. Loving You-

‘Loving You’ was the lead single for ‘Psychopath and the Philosopher’, and its infectious groove and snappy lyrics show why. In a—perhaps unintentional—referential call-back to their EP, Garreth sings ‘Trying to be a king, while you’re pulling the joker around by a string.’

The song continues the tones of condemnation and loss, but its joyful chorus brings a devil be damned sense of wonder and defiance—movingly reimagining the sense of hopelessness into a celebration, and reminding us that there are some joys that outweigh any circumstances. ‘Loving You’ is a rebellion against consequence, and a ballad to the moment; which I think the finer ones may even deserve.

7. Glass Eye-

There’s been a turning point here, and this song comes in with the voice of a self-doubting teacher, striving to impart the wisdoms which perhaps had not been realized in their own life. There is a sense of nihilistic swagger as Garreth brings a growling fury to the words. The drums rage beautifully in the background throughout.

8. Tell Me I’m Alive-

‘Tell Me I’m Alive’ kicks off quick and focussed, the bass working deftly to keep the song moving. ‘Every time I lose my mind, and faith, in the human race,’ reflects Garreth. A jazzy bridge lets the well-honed musicianship of the band shine before pounding back into Garreth’s impassioned plea to feel…anything perhaps. Then the song cuts off suddenly into the playful opening tones of ‘Zombie’.

9. Zombie-

‘Zombie’ goes from gentle notes to hard-driving chaos in just under a minute, before slowing down to spotlight the powerful diatribe of Garreth’s raging lyrics.

This song has a churning rhythm that can really grab hold of you. If that was the Zombie connection, I’m all the more impressed.

‘Cause I’m a devil when I lie, and I’ll see demons when I die,’ is the obstinate admission of the chorus, a dark reflection for the penultimate track.

10. Eye in the Sky-

The closing track, ‘Eye in the Sky’, is a notable departure in style, shifting from Lutra Lutra’s well-established mix of hard rock meets jam-band groove to a prog-rock inspired track to take the album out on a wildly unexpected yet uproariously fun send off. ‘Eye in the Sky’ lashes out at the lack of control we have in our lives, and its Orwellian undertones resonate strongly with the sympathies of this writer.

‘Eye in the Sky’ is a testament to the versatility of the entire band, with the high-energy tune meshing perfectly with Garreth’s unabashed delivery of the titular refrain.

There’s less cynicism in this song, less hopelessness even. Its simply a recognition of a bleak reality, and an unapologetic ode to the fun we can have in spite of all that. In spite of the ideas driving it, ‘Eye in the Sky’ closes the album with a sense of celebration, reminding us that as deplorable as the world may be, there is still love, and dancing, and good drinks, and great music.

‘Psychopath and the Philosopher’ is a louder, more relentless album than Lutra Lutra’s eponymous EP.  It’s darker, and more polished. It hits harder, moves faster, and lasts longer. If it trades in the EP’s sense of hope, it fosters in its place a more resigned sense of celebration.

The most critical evaluation, of course, is that this album is fun from start to finish. Even more—it’s is a blast live, as I described in my live show review last week.

That’s why you don’t want to miss the release party for ‘Psychopath and the Philosopher’, this Saturday at the Polar Park Brewing Co.

Come see a great show, hang with good people, and pick up this fantastic album for yourself. Get your tickets here.

-Brad OH Inc.

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Lutra Lutra Review

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Green DesklampThe interior of Filthy McNasty’s has been renovated—a new stage occupying the space formerly reserved for pool tables and Big Buck Hunter. The bathrooms have been treated with a dull wood finish—belying the bar’s name with an unprecedented sense of care and cleanliness.

Otherwise, Filthy’s is much the same as ever. The specially made ‘420’ menu is a sheet of printer paper with a scant line of items on it, and the familiar denizens pack themselves in tightly—with little pretension and even less sense of personal space—around the stage. They’re waiting for Lutra Lutra to perform. We all are.

But, we are told, there have been some complications with the opening act, and we will have to continue waiting as the band scurries about trying to solve the problem. The fans don’t seem to mind the wait so much, the booze is flowing, and spirits are high.

Lutra Lutra are an Edmonton, Alberta based band who members include Garreth Burrows (Vocals and Guitar), Katrina Burrows (Keys and Vocals), Will Smith (Bass) and Denis Frigon (Drums), and much like the freshly updated interior of the bar, they too have promised to bring in the new by debuting several songs from their upcoming LP.

Their self-titled EP, ‘Lutra Lutra’ is hardly old, bearing a 2016 release, but the brief, 6 song debut disc is already very familiar to fans of the band—who continue to mill about, eager for the show to begin.

otterheadfinal-copy

This album, given to me recently by guitar player and vocalist Garreth, was an intriguing introduction to a band notable as much for its strong and precise rhythm section (Smith is an especially stand-out performance tonight) as it is for the articulate cadence of its near-literary lyricism.

With anthemic songs such as ‘Fall Out of Love (FOOL)’, ‘Miser Remedy’, and the energetic closer ‘What We’ve Lost’, the album, despite being only just over 17 minutes, is packed full of catchy riffs and memorable lyrics which do much to showcase the band’s wry humour. Many of these songs will be guaranteed crowd pleasers tonight. It will be interesting to see how the new, untested material will hold up to these old standards.

There’s action on the floor now, and we’re told the band has managed to line up not one, but two replacement openers—both buskers pulled off Whyte Avenue and offered a spontaneous opportunity to perform. These openers, Drew Donald and Paul each performed brief but impassioned sets, riling up the audience and setting the stage for the main act.

As Lutra Lutra take the stage and offer a congenial greeting to the close-knit crowd, there is a surge of excitement on the floor, and attendees push to the front, settling into place for the show.

The set opens with several new songs—each maintaining the spot-on precision and witty lyrics the band is fast becoming known for. When ‘Miser Remedy’ hits—the first familiar song of the set—the audience is moved by a fresh energy—eagerly bouncing their heads and swaying along to the tenacious and contagious beat. This was followed shortly by ‘FOOL’, and ‘Culture and Wine’, and the crowd’s enthusiasm continued to grow as the band delivered their signature blend of technical expertise and indefatigable swagger.

The newer songs in the set showed great promise, and as I gazed about the bar, I got a sense of eager anticipation—the fans taking in each note and word with the enthusiastic attention of lovers long sundered.

While the new songs may not have brought quite the same energy to the set as the older, more familiar ones did, it was clear that Lutra Lutra’s new LP will be hotly anticipated as the band continues to deliver stellar live performances and hold true to their unique signature style.

Lutra Lutra Photo

-Left to Right: Will Smith, Denis Frigon, Katrina Burrows, Garreth Burrows-

The penultimate song of the night, the EP closing ‘What We’ve Lost’, was a special treat. The infectious tune is a natural showcase for front-man Garreth’s easy-going charisma, and the audience was quickly whipped into a raucous fervour as the band brought the show to a closing crescendo.

Lutra Lutra put on one hell of a tight show tonight. The older songs from their debut EP garnered a great deal of enthusiasm from their dedicated fans, and if tonight’s performance is any indication, their upcoming LP is sure to be a treasure of new classics. Just like the bar they played in, Lutra Lutra proved that the charm and style they’ve become known for will not be lost as they head into the future.

If you’ve yet to catch Lutra Lutra live or want to grab their EP for yourself (and you should, on both counts), be sure to visit their website (Link) for more information.

-Brad OH Inc.

Advance Album Review: Kottonmouth King’s ‘Krown Power’

The Gentleman Juggalo LogoWhen I checked my inbox a few days back, I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised to find an invitation to review an advance-copy of the Kottonmouth Kings new album- ‘Krown Power’. A chance like this after only a few months actively reviewing albums? Nice work Fam!

The decision to seize the opportunity was immediate—after all, I’ve been a fan of the band since being introduced to their 2000 album ‘High Society’ via the ICP guest spot. Since then, I’ve followed the band’s unique sound—a psychedelic mix of hip-hop and punk rock—throughout their career. I’ve even had the pleasure of seeing them live on a number of occasions, including the Gathering of the Juggalos 2010 and 2012.

So there was no question about it—if I had the chance to review their new album ahead of its release date, I was jumping on the opportunity.

‘Krown Power’ will officially drop on August 28th, marking the band’s 14th studio album (EP’s and compilations bring the total significantly higher), which is a testament to their staying power to say the least. But that’s not all that’s interesting about this album.

KrownPower‘Krown Power’ will be available on August 28th.

Back in 2013, the band split from their long-time record label ‘Suburban Noize’ due to internal conflicts. A devastating challenge for any band, KMK took the split in stride, and went on to found their current label, ‘United Family Music’ in 2014. ‘Krown Power’ will be the band’s debut release on United Family Music, and also their first release since the departure of founding member Johnny Richter, who also left around the time of the Subnoize split.

With so much having changed, it’s only natural to feel some trepidation about what the future holds for this strange and undoubtedly pot-reeking crew of musical misfits. As it turns out, the future is not too dissimilar from the past, and that’s not such a bad thing either!

‘Krown Power’ is laced with all the familiar elements of a KMK release. The lead single ‘Ganja Glow’ would have no doubt sufficed to silence any doubts about the ongoing focus of the band. One thing is beyond question…KMK still love their weed. It’s been a cornerstone of the band since their days as the ‘Humble Gods’, and it remains the most consistent topic on ‘Krown Power’. In fact, they reinforce their heartfelt love of the herb on nearly every song, showing an impressive flexibility of praise that would be the envy of any proper ‘Worship Band’.

This is exhibited most succinctly in the penultimate song of the album, the aptly named ‘Mary Jane’. With echoes of the 2002 song ‘Rest of My Life’, ‘Mary Jane’ is undeniable proof that of all the countless artists who have ever proclaimed their own love to be the only one true and eternal, the love KMK have for the titular Mary Jane has stood the test of time far better than most.

Happily, the rest of the album doesn’t slouch either—despite the influence it was undoubtedly conceived under. Ranging from high-energy party songs like ‘Our City’ and ‘Fill Your Cup’, to the vintage sounding ‘Sink or Swim’, KMK show the sort of consistent diversity their fans have come to expect. ‘Fuck Off’ features the return of long-time collaborators Insane Clown Posse, with an opening verse by Shaggy 2 Dope which is sure to bring a nostalgic smile to the painted faces of any Juggalos listening.

Other standout tracks include ‘Pump up Da Bass’, ‘Don’t Feel Down’, ‘Ganja Glow’, and ‘Good Time Zone’—all but the last of which guest star the incredibly talented Marlon Asher. These tracks–and Marlon’s presence especially—bring a welcome reggae-influence to the album which is so perfectly fitting with KMK’s sound and passions that it seems a match made in reefer-heaven.

marlon-asherMarlon Asher adds to the album with his distinctive Reggae sound.

The kings would do well to hold onto this influence and make the most of his talents. And they may be—rumours circulate that Asher has been signed to the band’s nascent label ‘United Family Music’, but these remain unconfirmed at the time of press. Fear not however, Brad OH Inc. is currently working on an interview with the Kottonmouth Kings, and we’ll be certain to have more information for you about this promising new contributor once that drops.

At the end of the day, when you put on a KMK record you should have a pretty good idea of what you’re getting, and that remains true for their first release on ‘United Family Music’. If their storied love of pot has been of fairy-tale persistence, so too has their dedication to their particular craft. The reggae sound on this album works well for a more mature balance to the familiar themes, and results in an album which gives due reverence to the past, while also managing to remain focussed—albeit through blurry, bloodshot eyes—on the future.

-Brad OH Inc.

Album Review: Insane Clown Posse’s ‘The Marvelous Missing Link: Lost’

The Gentleman Juggalo LogoOn April 28th, 2015 Insane Clown Posse’s Violent J celebrated his 43rd birthday. This is no trivial accomplishment. With a childhood steeped in gang violence and accentuated by poverty, Violent J (aka: Joseph Bruce) may be lucky to have made it even beyond 20.

But something happened along the way which changed Violent J’s life forever. He formed a band. Along with his childhood friend Joey Ustler (aka: Shaggy 2 Dope), J built the Insane Clown Posse from the bones of defunct street gang Inner City Posse.

On October 18th, 1992, ICP released their debut full length album, ‘Carnival of Carnage’. The first in an album series known as the ‘Joker’s Cards’, ‘Carnival’ set ICP onto their lifelong musical odyssey. The Joker’s Cards are a series of thematic albums, each revealing some aspect of the listener’s inner-self—they display moral quandaries and psychic terrors like so many carnivalesque freak-shows.

Since then, ICP’s career has stood as a blazing contradiction to the ‘mainstream’ music industry. With the formation of their record label, ‘Psychopathic Records’, Joe and Joey have created an underground industry for themselves, bringing up countless other acts along the way.

With this sense of purpose, the lives of these two Detroit youth have morphed from nightmares to dreamscapes. Both describe their lives now as being filled with all the happiness and fulfillment they could have ever dreamed of. For more information about the genesis of the Insane Clown Posse, see the Brad OH Inc. article ‘Circular Journey’ (Link).

This all brings us back to April 28th—as this year, Violent J’s birthday also marked the release of the 3rd Joker’s Card of the second deck—‘The Marvelous Missing Link: Lost’.

indexClick image above to buy the album.

‘Lost’ is only one half of ‘The Missing Link’, with the other half—‘Found’—dropping later this year, on July 31st.

Like all Joker’s Cards, there is a very specific theme behind ‘The Missing Link’. As a whole, ‘The Missing Link’ refers to our internal link to belief—our connection to and faith in whatever keeps us on the right track.

Specifically, ‘Lost’ is about the experience of having no belief. Its dark tales tell of loss, death, and torment—the experience of any soul living in such a depraved world without any belief to buffer against the daily anxieties of such a life.

With tracks such as ‘Lost’, ‘Apocalypse’, and ‘Vomit’ painting hellish stories of misplaced anger and suffering, ‘Lost’ is accordingly one of the darkest albums the Clowns have ever released.

Without long-time producer Mike E. Clark at the helm, ICP have instead placed their faith in the talents of Psychopathic collaborators Mike P, Michael ‘Seven’ Summers, Brian Kuma, and one of the label’s up-and-coming stars, James ‘Young Wicked’ Garcia. This results in a daring change to the sound. While every album has certainly represented a significant shift in musical style—ICP have continued to explore their artistic range even after nearly 25 years together—this stands as one of the most radical departures for the group yet.

Marked by the heavy use of DJ scratching and industrial-style bass drops, the backing tracks are fast and heavy—contributing an often frantic pace to an album about the madness of lacking a sense of purpose. The disc plays at times more like a soundscape than an ordered collection of songs, with lyrics often sampled and repeated over and over—the usual raps slipping on many occasions into something closer to a Gregorian chant. In this way, the album is reminiscent of ICP protégé-band Twiztid’s stellar 2009 release- ‘W.I.C.K.E.D.’.

Garcia’s efforts deserve special credit here. Contributing many background vocals and several choruses including on the songs ‘How’ and ‘I See the Devil’, Garcia brings a fresh and welcome sound to the album—acting often as the distant voice of hope amidst the dark rumblings of ICP’s verses.

ICP’s delivery here is significant as well. While never competing amongst the most technically skilled rappers, the Clowns have always turned out crisp lyrics meshing well with their energetic beats. Not here. While frantic at times, the beats seldom flirt with anything close to ‘energy’—opting rather for a more frenetic, plodding, and often vulgar feel.

ICP’s raps follow suit perfectly. When not stuck in repetitive loops, the lyrics often come in disjointed bursts, as if being made up on the spot by a mind too occupied with more pressing concerns. This is especially noticeable in the song ‘Shock’, and fits well with the theme of being unable to control your own deranged impulses, despite how off-putting it can seem at first.

This attention to detail is consistent throughout the record.

While the intro can be somewhat brazen in its repetition, and even disturbingly overt in hammering the point home—it does much to illustrate the earnest message behind this brooding album: Find something to believe in, or risk being lost. Despite this theme however, the album does little to provide any idea of just what one should believe. If internet memes are to be believed, ICP are a couple of evangelical Christians, and thus the easy conclusion would be faith in the Christian God.

But you shouldn’t believe everything you read on the internet, and this is a perfect example. While the ultimate message of how to find your way will inevitably be addressed on ‘The Marvelous Missing Link: Found’, a recent interview in ‘The Detroit News’ did a good job showing the flexibility of Violent J’s views on the matter:

“Faith, for ICP, isn’t about any particular religion; Bruce admits he’s never read the Bible. It’s about finding something to believe in, whether that’s in one’s relationship with their spouse, their children or with art.” (Source).

But this isn’t to say that ‘Lost’ is entirely bereft of guidance. Several songs cover the issues of false beliefs—Money, Sex, Power, and other such temptations which distract people from finding a true sense of purpose. In ‘Vomit’, ICP tell the stories of two people who used sex and money respectively as their guiding principles, and end up lost in the depths of hell as a result.

Notably missing from the album is the familiar sense of humour so ubiquitous to other ICP releases. The lyrics and concepts are consistently bleak, with only brief glimpses of hope in songs such as ‘How’, which laments the confusion of trying to live a decent life amid such lurid distractions.

The album is moreover barren of any deep metaphor—which of course requires belief, as covered in depth in the former Brad OH Inc. articles on ‘The Metaphorical Imperative’ (Part 1 and Part 2). In an indirectly humourous twist, the song ‘Falling Apart’ accordingly eschews metaphor entirely. It tells the story of a man literally falling apart—fingers and limbs snapping off as he tries in vain to keep himself together. The song is punctuated by a surprisingly earnest chorus, in which Violent J channels his inner Rock Star to ask ‘What’s become of me/ I’m falling apart…’.

It pays off wonderfully.

The rest of the album plays out as a series of macabre stories and scenarios depicting the pitfalls of a life devoid of meaning. In stark contrast to most other ICP albums, the protagonist’s endeavours seldom end well, as evidenced in the song ‘Flamethrower’, where the Clown’s characters are ultimately killed. This subtly negative detail is similar to many songs from the group’s 2004 release, ‘Hell’s Pit’.

To me, one of the especially interesting things about this album is that it’s really not the album ICP probably ‘should’ have made at this point. Based on the huge surge of mainstream attention they garnered from songs like 2009’s ‘Miracles’, contrasted against the comparatively underwhelming reception they’ve received in the last few years, it would have made commercial sense to create a much more goofy album; ripe for public lampooning.

Instead, the Clowns opted to make a brazenly sincere album, focused on earnest meaning with a great sense of personal introspection. In theory, it’s the ‘wrong’ album to release just now, and that’s part of what makes it so damn interesting.

‘The Marvelous Missing Link: Lost’ is a daring album and bold new direction for ICP. Its heavy themes and plodding delivery often make for an uncomfortable listen, but that’s just the point. As is their wont, ICP have focused very intently on creating an LP that fits with their own artistic priorities rather than mass-appeal. This shouldn’t be surprising, as the band itself may be seen as the very ‘Link’ which raised Joe and Joey away from the fate of most children born to inner city poverty and set them on their purposeful path to happiness and fulfillment.

‘Lost’ is a dark, moody album. It’s not going to cheer anyone up, and this era in ICP’s career may be remembered as one of the least traditionally pleasant—challenging us with a barrage of negativity before moving on to the inevitably lighter tone of the ‘Found’ album. But ‘Lost’ does provide an important impetus for all of us to consider what really matters in our lives. It’s imperative that we take the time to recognize and cherish these things. Otherwise, our own Missing Link may never be ‘Found’.

The_missing_link_FOUND‘The Marvelous Missing Link: Found’ is out on July 31st, 2015.

A Note to the Reader: This is the first ever album review from Brad OH Inc. We hope you’ve enjoyed this new avenue, and encourage all of our fans to reply in the comments section with their thoughts on the review, or suggestions for other albums to review in the future.

-Brad OH Inc.