I happened upon Wolfmanhattan Project at an Albuquerque record shop I’d never visited before. It was one of those happy discoveries which are all too rare in this age of instant global availability.
A trio, the band consists of Mick Collins (Gories, Dirtbombs), Kid Congo Powers (Gun Club, Cramps, Bad Seeds), and Bob Bert (Sonic Youth, Lydia Lunch Retrovirus.) In 2016 they put out a 7” of “Smells Like You,” a catchy, sing-along raveup that probably would not surprise fans of the members previous bands. Blue Gene Stew, though, is an altogether different animal — one that starts out on familiar ground, yet soon veers and meanders into unknown terrain.
From the outset (with Bert’s cover painting looking like a paint-by-numbers rendering gone way wrong), nothing about this album is content to rest on laurels or deliver upon per-conceived expectations. While there are indeed hooks to be had, it’s side two where things seem to come together — where structures are loosened. Cornerstone “Toynbee Tile Blues” appears to be the key to what the band is going for. It’s an eight-minute Beat poetry/space-soundscape ode to the mysterious linoleum tiles that began appearing in the 80s and 90s, embedded in Philadelphia asphalt and other cities, carrying oblique messages about the resurrection, et al. And as a piece, it’s a great touchstone for pondering what these three restless sonic explorers are after. In a time when nostalgia, branding, and predictability are the prevailing order of the day, Wolfmanhattan Project emphatically grasps for new ways of expressing and reconfiguring the music they’ve devoted their lives to. I have no idea what their next record will sound like, but have no doubt it will be unlike this one. words / d samarov