An almost completely grey portrait of a mutant family.

Beanpole: All My Kin Album Review

By Tanner Meadows
Local Music Journalist

Artist: Beanpole
Album: All My Kin
Release Date: August 31, 2018
Label: Chimera
Website: https://beanpole.bandcamp.com/releases

With no prior knowledge as to what this record is, some might say to themselves, perhaps to those around them, upon first listen, “Hey, this sucks,” before ejecting it from their CD player, removing it from their turntable, pressing stop on a screen, etc., as violently as any of those acts can possibly be before reorienting your musical palette with literally anything else as quickly as you can. Visceral reactions of disgust and a need to cleanse yourself of this record are apparently not uncommon. When Les Claypool of the funk rock outfit Primus first tried releasing this album in the ’90s off of Prawn Song, a sister label to Mammoth Records that Claypool ran himself, Mammoth dropped the label completely. That’s how weird All My Kin is.

Art doesn’t always agree with our preconceived notions of what’s good and what’s not. Good art challenges those ideas to an extreme, and those who persevere long enough to understand come out the other side with a stronger definition of what makes good art good and bad art bad. These experiences come in unexpected forms and All My Kin is such a case.

In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, the project’s co-creator Larry Lalonde states, “To get the vibe of recording a Beanpole song, you have to place yourself in a secluded farm valley full of mutant hillbillies trying to recreate melodies that were found on a broken record of Disneyland ride music.” Claypool and Lalonde really nail this premise to a disturbing degree, resulting in an incestuous romp of various bells and whistles that really do sound like the recordings of a bunch of misshapen rural misfits cut off from the rest of the world, and according to the third track “Cousins,” the use of ‘incestuous’ is a figure of speech only to a certain degree.

That it has shed its need for commercial viability is one of the most attractive features of All My Kin. Unbound from the chains of monetary success, the odd idea can be fleshed out to a fuller degree. During the recording process, musicians were given instruments that they had never played before and encouraged to make mistakes, while traditional recording processes were for the most part ignored. This goes a long way in creating that outlandish sound a band of mutant hillbillies would purportedly make. Each track delivers a unique and jarring, dissonant sound, portraying a variety of characters, charming in their freakishness. If I had to crudely sum up Beanpole’s sound, I’d say they sound like a collaboration between The Beatles and David Cronenberg. That is to say, it’s great but really gross.

 

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