Looking back on the career of Boss Keloid is an interesting exercise, in more ways than one. The obvious angle is their style; they move from a good to great stoner metal/rock band to this hard-to-pin-down, experimental-as-ideology, psychedelic powerhouse. Another angle is in their sky-rocketing popularity; somehow, becoming more weird has made them way more popular. Not go all hipster on y’all, but there was a not-large number of blogs covering Herb Your Enthusiasm, their 2016 release, us included. It’s when Melted on the Inch dropped that suddenly heads started turning and people started paying attention. And with good reason. Melted on the Inch remains, to this day, one of the most bewildering, interesting, and mercurial albums I’ve ever heard. It took that sort of unique experimentation and expression for Boss Keloid to make their voices heard in a wider arena and I’m damn glad that they did because that’s how we’ve ended up with Family the Smiling Thrush.
Make no mistake, this is not an indictment of “the scene” or music journalists or whatever; it’s an observation of the interesting place into which Boss Keloid’s latest album was released. In the wake of a monstrously unique album, Boss Keloid suddenly found themselves with way more ears and eyes pointed their way. Of course, in true Boss Keloid fashion, they chose to do something entirely different than what those sensory organs expected them to do. They released an album that leans on the oddities that made Melted on the Inch so great but they brought back a lot of the heft of their earlier career, creating an album that hits on all fronts, instead of leaning on “just” one. Make no mistake, Melted on the Inch was plenty heavy. But it felt more like a rocket-ship flying off into a weird, technicolored void whereas Family the Smiling Thrush feels like a stiff pint, with heady traces of all sorts of herbs sifting around at the bottom.
“Alright Eden, what the fuck are you talking about?” is something you might be saying at this point although you should really know better by now. OK, let me explain: let’s check out “Orang of Noyn” together. Interestingly enough, its opening segments (and, thus, the album’s opening segments) are the most Melted on the Inch you’ll hear this album go. That weird, lilting rhythm is there, the psychedelic guitar tones, the ponderous bass. It’s almost as if Boss Keloid are connecting the two albums, departing from Melted on the Inch into this one. Soon though, things get a bit more sludgy and stoner; the guitars are thicker and hit deeper, and the vocals are grittier. This is before the two minute mark, when the riff flirts with something even heavier. Later on down the track, that heaviness will be given free rein and the full stoner metal colorings of Boss Keloid will be on display (not to mention the almost-screams which usher some of the transitions on the track).
But here’s the thing: that Boss Keloid weirdness is still wholly here. Whether it be in the synths, murmuring to themselves alongside the main riffs, those signature guitar tones, the sudden transition to acoustic guitars, the harlequin-like bass or the overall sensation of lush fecundity, of psychedelic journey, the weirdness is still there. Thus, it wouldn’t be accurate to say that Family the Smiling Thrush is less weird than Melted on the Inch; it’s just a different kind of weird. Not convinced? OK, that’s fair. Let’s go to one of my favorite tracks on the album, “Cecil Succulent”. Immediately as the track starts you might say “uh, excuse me? What the hell?”. The rhythm is so light hearted, playful almost, and the guitars are less fuzzy, almost beach-rock in their buoyancy. But that bass is still churning along and those synths! Glorious synths! The vocals are structured like nothing before in the band’s career, weirdly percussive and following along the off-kilter time signatures.
Of course, this is all before the fuzz returns ten-fold on the chorus, interacting with the synths and the vocals in that Boss Keloid signature way. It’s so weird but it’s different weird. It’s also damn excellent, discussions of musical journeys and careers aside. Like the previous release, it’s strangely addictive, wholly engrossing, and completely, entirely, uncompromisingly Boss Keloid. If there was one who was asking whether Melted on the Inch was a fluke (a dumb question anyway since the albums before it are also good) then this one should put that line of inquiry to rest. Family The Smiling Thrush is yet another excellent release from one of the most unique bands in the business today, especially impressive for its “strange to strangeness” move, where the band refuse to stay still and insist on reinventing themselves. Again. Oh and the whole thing is a concept album about a family made out of plants? There’s also that. OK, what are you still doing here? Go listen to this.
Boss Keloid’s Family the Smiling Thrush was released on June 4th. Head on over to their Bandcamp page to grab it.