The Lynnfield Pioneers: Free Popcorn

The Lynnfield Pioneers
Free Popcorn

IF THE LATEST record by the NYC-based Lynnfield Pioneers suggests a band doing everything it can to keep the wheels from flying off in all directions, imagine the struggle they must have faced before they had such nice, gummy basslines holding the whole mess together. Back in the heady treble-full days of the band's 1995 debut, The Newport E.P., and their Matador followup, Emerge, the Pioneers were a mix of prog-rap and pushy rhymes courtesy of the reedy-voiced Dan Cook. Mixing the rantings of a Mark E. Smith with the wack white-boy blooze yowlings of a Railroad Jerk, the band souped up its sound with the guitars of Cook and fellow rapper Mike Janson, outlandish Bonhamesque percussion (provided by a drummer named John Paul Jones), and enough Farfisa to induce mild nausea.

But on the band's newest full-length, Free Popcorn, Janson's wiggy four-string helps give the band a musical center--if barely. The lyrics of the title track describe the band's process as well as any account could: "Elements Frankenstein together/...falls apart and then comes together/Wide-angled endeavor." Somehow, the whole sweaty train wreck of a record comes across as loose-limbed, daft, and charming--like a thinking frat boy's take on the punk-soul Make-Up, or a more self-indulgent, mid-fi version of the Beastie Boys.

Cook and Janson may not have more rhymes than Jamaica's got mangos, but they have a way with words that perfectly suits the loopy musical happenings. Finding rhymes in unlikely places is their stock-in-trade, so we get lines that pair "paranoia" and "LaToya" (a name that gets dropped throughout the LP) and marathon strings of phonic plays. At times their flow leads to some inspired word games, but it can just as easily sound like egregious slam poetry.

The furious space-jamming flower power of "Maximum Sunshine" thus yields lines like "astrological isolations, kaleidoscopic calibrations, infinite vegetation, photosynth-relaxation." Meanwhile, the irresistibly booty-shaking "Time to Get Dumb," which repeats the word "dumb" 22 times in the refrain, also manages to rhyme "the Grateful Dead" and "Right Said Fred" in a way that actually makes a goofy kind of sense. Not knowing when to say when may be both the band's greatest weakness and its saving grace.


The Lynnfield Pioneers play the 7th Street Entry on May 22; (612) 338-8388.

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