I usually try to pick bands to review based on my prior knowledge of them, partly because I’m risk-averse, but mainly because I’m very lazy and I dislike having to make the effort to look up a band’s information. Unfortunately, this same laziness also means I’m often last to check what’s available for review, so end up with the unknowns spurned by the rest of the AMG workforce. Flummox were one such unknown, but I had a good feeling about the band. Distinguishing themselves from the rest of the metal scene with a quirkiness that extends from their artwork to their lyrics to their range of musical influences, on paper Flummox are a fascinating prospect. Though generally not a fan of jam-bands, especially on record, a sneak preview of “The Ghost of Ronnie Dio” suggested Flummox could combine their influences and personality into well-written, entertaining, proper songs. So how does Selcouth fair as a whole?
Unfortunately confusededly. Selcouth is a big ole mash up of genres and ideas, and when brought together with skill this sort of thing can work well. But a line from their bio hints that the requisite care doesn’t really enter into Flummox‘s musical calculations: “…Blake [Dellinger, bass/vocals] & Drew [Jones, guitar] decided to create a band that could & would play whatever they wanted to. Whether they were playing heavy stoner rock anthems, progressive death metal epics, jazzy funk jams, or even ‘5’s style Doo-wop, it was all done under the Flummox banner.” This is precisely how Selcouth comes across: a mish-mash of musical ideas crammed together without any thought for the audience.
There are some highlights sprinkled across the album’s rather excessive 66 minutes, though. Flummox base themselves in groovy, stoner doom that sits somewhere between Electric Wizard, Kyuss and Cathedral, and when they feel like it they can riff with the best of them. Opener and title-track “Selcouth” lumbers forward with a cracking slow groove before segueing into a softer, psychedelic mid-section, followed by some tasty 70s Sabbath worship. We’re even treated to a surprisingly good bass solo before the song ends. Previously mentioned “The Ghost of Ronnie Dio” is a super-catchy, cheeky ditty blending the weirdness of Captain Beefheart with the heaviness of Cathedral, while “Pan’s Daughter” builds on a Kyuss base, gradually upping the intensity and weirdness to great effect as the song progresses.
The rest of the album is hit and miss, but mostly the latter. Sometimes whole songs annoy, such as the generic stoner-jam “A National Selection” with its thieved “Seven Nation Army” riff, irritating two-minute noise ejaculation “Tongue-Saw,” or terrible “comedy” closer “Bark, Paddle, and Ball.” But more often songs that contain good ideas are derailed by bad ones. “Depression Heap” and “Flight Through the CosmosUnibirth” both start off as pretty good Cathedral worship, but the former is derailed by upbeat rockbilly and the latter just doesn’t know when to stop, wandering aimlessly for twelve minutes before finally dying out. “Hummingbird Anthem” also has some nice moments, mostly Primus-inspired, but is mainly tedious country-blues.
The performances are also mixed. The guitars and bass are quite loose, which fits Flummox‘s style, and played with obvious skill. By comparison the drumming is bland and uninspired, often a little jerky, and sounds like it was played on a bad electric kit. Dellinger’s vocals fit the music well with hints of Geddy Lee and Mike Patton, but they are inconsistent and at his worst he sounds more like Jack White with a throat infection. The overall production is quite lo-fi, suiting the doom sections well but not really helping the softer parts.
Incorporating diverse influences with over-the-top wackiness can result in remarkably original and exciting music – for example Mr. Bungle, who are an obvious influence for Flummox – but it takes a lot of skill to prevent it from descending into an annoying, random mess. Though they’ve got the diverse influences and wackiness to spare, they don’t have the skill to write a good album. Like a lot of jazz, I suspect Flummox‘s music is a lot more fun to play than it is to listen to; I advise them to have more consideration for their audience next time ’round.