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Bentmen - Immaculate Contraption
Sound Museum Records
By Linus Gelber, Home Office Records
(more articles from this author)
2001-01-17
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Artist: Bentmen (www.bentmen.com)
Title: Immaculate Contraption
Label: Sound Museum Records (www.bentmen.com)
Genre: Alternative

Red mutant eyes look down on Hunger City still, if this dangerous skewed album by Boston's fanatic flairs Bentmen is any indication. Nine other warped collage photoscapes join the pictured freaky album cover in this nightside offering, each worthy of Riven or Myst and each depicting an instant of death-fetishism, crowd-mongering costumery or just plain strange-days finesse. The images are so unsettled and meticulous and peculiar, as if drawn from outtakes of "Seven" or "The Cell," that I'm a bit nervous slipping the disc into the waiting drawer. Bentmen isn't one of those bands that gussies up a package to make up for musical humdrum, is it?

No, it's not. I won't say that this record is entirely my cup of mandrake tea, but that never stopped me from digging and gabbling with The Residents in their Mole or Eskimo periods, and if this were a Residents CD it would be a good one. Immaculate Contraption swaggers with the menacing strut of Marilyn Manson minus the tasteless multimedia assault, and roars with the kind of bellowed power you'll find in thump-and-holler bands like New Haven's estimable Gargantua Soul.

Backed by double drums and crediting a "Crowd Agitation Officer" as well as two guitars, bass, and vocals, Bentmen favor repetitive sloganeering tossed on a fresh bed of mesclun distortion. The songs are political agitations and personal vents, raging against the various machines against which one rages. This is both a strength and a weakness; the numbers are earnest and furious and convincing, but I wish for a grand theme against which the band can rail for real.

Bentmen's web site hints at high theatre, dark eruptions, and wild shenanigans during the seven-year-old band's rare live shows, and I'm guessing that this record is best as a companion piece to a night spent watching pandemonium in all its glory (singer Bill "Des" Desmond once famously and accidentally set a photographer on fire with a pyrotechnic rocket he was launching over the crowd from a helmet device which shot a flare down instead of up; the fellow didn't mind, which tells you how good the show had to be). This is the music, and it works. Now I'm hungry for the spectacle. Think of it this way: where would KISS be, without the KISS part?


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