Two Ton Boa

Two Ton Boa
(Kill Rock Stars)

Sharing a childlike fascination with dead things and arcane lore, Two Ton Boa sounds perfectly suited to the films of Tim Burton. Like the famed director of such modern fairy tales as Edward Scissorhands and Sleepy Hollow, the Olympia trio's leader Sherry Fraser combines a love for discarded antique gadgets, an admiration of the grotesque, and a celebratory joy within moments of ominous doom. And like the director's films, Fraser's penchant for excessive drama never slips into pretension. Classically trained in oboe and English horn, Fraser reportedly forfeited her future in orchestral maneuvers to private demons several years ago. While it isn't explicitly stated, one might infer from Fraser's lyrics that a drug addiction had something to do with her retirement to the lowly ranks of rock. Or, perhaps we're misreading many lines like, "Filled with a puppet charm/ Strung through the holes in my arms." Whatever the case, Fraser has imbued this five-song minialbum with a mastery of musical composition, sophisticated instrumentation, and longing for the sense of pure beauty and innocence -- a sentiment often shared amongst artists who've dabbled in hard drugs.

Fraser plays bass, piano, and organ for the trio, which also features former Fitz of Depression bassist Brian Sparhawk and drummer Dan Rieser. Former members Rachel Carns and Radio Sloan -- best known as the new-new wave duo the Need -- fill the rhythm section on "Have Mercy." The trio's theme song, "Two Ton Boa," melds hints of cabaret, Led Zeppelin heft, and Concrete Blonde singer Johnette Napolitano's exuberant wailing. A cover version of Fraser's staggering waltz "Comin' Up From Behind" was performed by Marcy Playground on the soundtrack to the recent black comedy Cruel Intentions (the same band had a modest hit with a song called "Sherry Fraser"). Here, the song gets the proper creepy-crawl treatment with the eerie twinkle steps of a toy piano and swinging rhythms, and the rollicking tom drums and soaring vocals of "Bleeding Heart" recall the sonic wash of Nothing's Shocking-era Jane's Addiction. But the junkyard antique sound of the instruments, mixed with a pair of overdriven bass guitars, gives the song a glazed timelessness.

"Have Mercy" closes the album with a beautiful yet somber melody driven by lightly chorused dual bass guitars and a rigid drum machine beat. Fraser sings: "You can't smell poison in a perfumed well/ So I fell into a softly padded empty shell." The weight of her glamorous gloom makes perfect sense.

 
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