Baltimore metal fans are probably familiar with Meatjack, but perhaps fewer know of the Daniloski brothers’ first band, Stranger Than Fiction. Their Motherfungus demo was released in 1991 (when the brothers were in their early 20s). These were the days just before a band could make a professional sounding demo cheaply, so the thin production dates this every bit as much as the fact that it came on a cassette. However, the tape explores a sinister silliness (à la early Butthole Surfers) using a kind of lo-fi, punk/prog and even free jazz at times. Don’t expect prog and jazz chops on Motherfungus though. It’s more the grand, avant garde spirit of those genres that lives here in a strange symbiosis with DIY energy and simplicity.
The tape’s first side is a tougher listen as it delves deepest into experimentation. Their live version of “God of Thunder” at the end of Side 1 is a turning point. It maintains the over-the-top hard rock appeal of Kiss, yet it’s also infused with the strange craziness that pervades the whole album. The second side doesn’t stray so far into the bizarre, though it is still a far cry from what was typically coming out of garages in the late 80s and early 90s. The album’s finale, “A Little Off the Top,” is reminiscent of Henry Rollins’ spoken word material on Family Man, where more effort was put into shock than substance, but the music helps by conveying an increasing madness as the song winds through it’s nearly 10 minute story of what happens after a man snaps. Motherfungus is anything but a pop album, being more concerned with crazy than catchy. While the Daniloskis’ current work isn’t exactly in the mainstream, it is not nearly the free, open (and unfocused) work from whence they came.
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