Whatzup
Stage Right, Stage Fright
Rapider Than Horsepower

by Chad Beck Stage Right, Stage Fright

"Mrs. Caterpillar you've caught my eye. Do you think I could have a date with you? As long as Mr. Caterpillar doesn't mind, I think I'd like to have a date with you." Vocalizing on the playful "No Boat No Burn," Michael Anderson continues, "We'll play dress up and guess up the good times we think we'll have. And as long as this record's playing I wanna keep dancing." As lyricist for two of Bloomington, Indiana's most interesting bands (Racebannon being the other), Anderson fills Stage Fright with the oddest sort of nightmares the kind you want to throw a party to, and the type you don't mind having over and over.

Inspired equally by Captain Beefheart's psychosis and that particular band's penchant for algebraic-like songs, Rapider Than Horsepower aren't exactly going to be pop stars. They are, however, quite brilliant. Eleven tracks filling nearly 25 minutes, Stage Fright is the first in a two-part series, yet works impressively as an individual work. If there's ever been an "arty" project, this is it. Two guitars, drums and a vocalist bound to send your parents to the psych ward, Rapider Than Horsepower reek of pretentious buffoonery and spontaneous geekery, except damnit! RTH are actually amazing! Something in the back of your head may try to tell you otherwise, but forget about it. This time the subconscious knows what's best. RTH are studied and dumb, tight and loose, cool and square. Ultimately, they are one of the best bands you could be listening to right now, so quit worrying about it and start getting freaky.

Repeated listens to Stage Fright unravels a saga thick enough to satisfy the most demanding of all musical appetites. There are no pop songs here. Practically composed of complex sing-a-longs (and actually including a chorus of in-studio participants), Stage Fright begins with "Rock Against Mapquest" and gets sneakier from there. At times, the listener will hear the artist formerly known as Prince ("My Baby's Boogie Is The Baddest"), at others, a melody of western romps. On those "Bonanza"-like melodies one will feel the rollercoaster-like twirls and dips of RTH, where Anderson yelps out "Yeeee-hah!" between his band's sharp dynamic plunges, crawls and melodramatic breakdowns.

Enigmatic as it is, Stage Fright, Stage Fright is also as easy to understand as a child's birthday party. The cake is sweet, thecandles are bright and the smiles aren't hiding anything sinister. Probably.

Copyright 2003 Ad Media Inc.