[CD Review] Experimental Dental School, 'Jane Doe Loves Me' (Cochon)

If Experimental Dental School (XDS) immediately face an uphill fight with Deerhoof comparisons, they've at least been around a while. This is the Bay Area trio's third full-length, following 2003's Hideous Dance Attack!!! and 2006's 2 1/2 Creatures. Besides, they're pals with Deerhoof, touring with them and enlisting Deerhoof drummer Greg Saunier to help mix and master Jane Doe Loves Me.

And while the album's every bit as fractured and bouncy and surreal as most Deerhoof material, it has decidedly more clatter and less polish. The focus is constantly shifting; several songs play more like improv freakouts than structured compositions. At the core, XDS's jittery organ/drums/guitar setup collides with wobbly samples, as Shoko Horikawa and Jesse Hall take stabs at vocalizing their out-there imagery.

It's puzzle pop that approaches puzzle punk, though perhaps art rock is the easiest tag: These vivid collages are spirited but not necessarily meant for dissection. "Drum Circuit's Lake" feels as much like a rogue transmission as the others, but hits upon blurts of horn and an actual dance beat toward the end. Later, "What Ghosts See" similarly delves into straight-ahead rock before finishing with a careful dose of dissonance.

Trouble is, as fascinating a mess as Jane Doe is, none of it adds up to much, even on repeated listens. True to Experimental Dental School's name, it comes off as less a collection of songs than a half-baked experiment that could have yielded something great. We're left with a bizarre, intermittently engaging artifact from a band that really could have used a chance to make their own imprint on underground music.

 
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