Need New Body's latest album, Where's Black Ben, is the soundtrack to an early-'80s childhood. There's the hypnotic blip of a video game, sing-along sounds, and some other sounds that could have been lifted from a neglected record collection. Need New Body don't make difficult music instead, they make unfamiliar music familiar in unnerving ways. The music imitates things ranging from the clash of toy swords to scratchy recordings of lullabies. Listeners trying to place the fragments will probably feel like they're trying to complete a crossword puzzle with no clues.
Need New Body rose from the ashes of Bent Leg Fatima, with percussionist Jim Reggiani and bassist Chris Reggiani filling out the lineup of vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Jeff Bradbury, keyboardist Dale Jimenez and percussionist Chris Powell. Sharing bills with Hella and Deerhoof early on, Need New Body have garnered comparisons to those two acts, but the band's music is neither as cute as Deerhoof nor as aggressive as early Hella.
The funk-fueled beat of "Brite Tha' Day" kicks off the collection of songs on Where's
Black Ben, the band's third release. The drums and keyboards keep to a straightforward
pattern, allowing the vocals which include a rapped reference to iPods
such lines as "I've got some pastries/ Let's just eat 'em up" room for
quirkiness. This one sounds like it should be played loud on some gigantic boombox. "Brite
Tha' Day" demonstrates what Need New Body do best the band removes music
from its expected context and then tweaks it just enough to make it strange.
Need New Body could have ripped every piece on Where's Black Ben from a different genre. "Magic Kingdom," a kids' song gone awry, is laid over tick-tock drumming and repetitive piano, while "Poppa B" depends on folk guitar. With an ominous electronic line and distorted vocals, "Who's This Dude" approximates the soundtrack for a nightmare about being chased by giant pixilated monsters.
Where's Black Ben draws coherence from the humor that runs through many of the songs. "So St Rx," a warm but sometimes backhanded celebration of South Street, and "Brite Tha' Day" wear their punch lines on their sleeve, while "Outer Space" and "Magic Kingdom" more subtly demonstrate the same playful sense of humor. The little jokes and oddball bits of sound throughout the album mean that first and foremost, listening to it is just plain fun.
The members of Need New Body probably don't take their music too seriously, even though the skill required to manage such a diverse piece of work might justify some snobbery. In the case of Where's Black Ben, the lack of seriousness means that the album practically begs for cruising with the windows down, eating Push Pops and wearing terrycloth, all fine activities for confronting the summer swelter.