Sometimes, a band comes along that’s just having the time of their lives. The music is experimental, has no mass appeal, and would normally make you switch to another song. But the fun that seeps into every note here is infectious to the point where none of that matters. Both the band and the audience are reveling in the joy of making noise that no one has done before. This is the case for The Constellations.
On its MySpace page, the band’s music is described as psychedelic/ghettotech/showtune but that’s still far too limiting. This band is off the wall. The lyrics often belong in a trashy bar, the sound ranges from laughter to tribal beats, and the artwork of their upcoming record, Southern Gothic, features an illustration of a rabbit head with its skull traced out. In spite of all these factors, this group from Atlanta has been getting considerable notice. They played SXSW this past year, got interviewed by The Express Show, and was listed as an Artist to Watch on iheartradio. So what’s appealing about this group? Well, they only had four songs available on their MySpace, but each one showed another side to their limitless musical innovation.
“Felicia” kicks off with a funky piano that would work wonders as a TV show intro, preferably one that shows a car driving through the city streets. Vocalist Elijah Jones shatters this vision though when he lurches on the scene, delivering his lines like he just did 10 shots of whiskey before shambling into the studio. Somehow, this approach fits in really well with the piano and ultra-groovy bass part by Wes Hoffman. The chorus is very dirty/catchy as well. Jones plays the sex angle so heavy-handily that it’s never offensive, just funny.
The starship-swirls at the opening of “Setback” instantly shows how varied The Constellations are, especially once Jones starts zooming his way through lyrics at breakneck speed. The chorus slows things down a little, combining early 60’s pop vocals with an 80’s synth that echos into outer space. The vocal delivery and song in general is reminiscent of the lighter side of Gorillaz.
Despite the title, “Love Is A Murder” is actually the most uplifting song of those available. The verses are bass-heavy affairs with a memorable sci-fi synth riff adding another touch of flavor. The chorus is light on its feet, with shimmering guitar work by Ryan Davis and Trevor Birdsong working its way in between Jones’ uplifting vocals. Talking about how much work a relationship is, the frontman sums up his thoughts perfectly when he says,”If you really want to live, you got to be ready to die. Every single love is a murder. You got to commit to survive.”
Of course, as if the first three numbers weren’t creatively weird enough, The Constellations always have the nine minute “Step Right Up”. Jones talks his way through this rocking bass-and-drum heavy track. His vocal delivery and the lyrics all conjure up the idea of the ringmaster from hell, using phrases like “Welcome one and all!” Somehow, over the course of a single verse, he’ll talk about ’70s porn music, tourists, drinking, and…well, mostly drinking. Yet the chorus sounds like electropop at its finest, with soulful backing vocal performances from Alaina Terry and Shab Bashiri.
The Constellations had fun making this record, a fact that becomes obvious once you hear what they’ve created. It can be tough creating music that moves widely outside the realms of what’s considered popular (by any standards, indie or mainstream). A sense of humor definitely helps and with upcoming performances at both Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza, they may be laughing all the way to the bank.