Thank you, Uncle Tom
Head Fulla Brains
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Schizophrenia in the service of mind-expanding music is always a welcome pop psychosis. Consider Brooklyn-based Caramelize. On this, their debut, the quartet displays an obsession with flourishes and smacks of every instrument and tone, whether it's the scruffy, surf-guitar freak-outs of "Denial" and "Allergy," or the Art of Noise-inspired electronic shuffles on "Los Lóbulos," a love letter to earlobes that's the funkiest fetishizing of a body part since "Baby Got Back." Adding to Caramelize's sonorous neuroses is a constant warping of vocal styles—howls, mumbles, laughs and groans sneak in between chords on nearly every number, and the dueling-duet voices of guitarists Sandra Velásquez and Hillary Maroon are laryngeal marvels that flip from tender wisps in one refrain to cackles that would scare the wart off a witch's schnozz in the next. This eclecticism also carries over into their surprisingly stellar lyrics—you have to admire a group that transforms "sauté" on the rap "The Caramel Eyes Song" into a party chant bashing Colin Powell. Even better, Caramelize joyfully switch between English and Spanish, and the melancholy slinks of "Carolinas" is Latin alternative at its supreme—bilingual, groovable, but with an ache that carries through the ages. The politics could have been fleshed out more on Thank You, Uncle Tom,considering the title, but Caramelize display enough iconoclasm on one album to establish themselves as a band too audacious to ignore. Caramelize perform at Dipiazza's, 5205 E. Pacific Coast Highway, Long Beach, (562) 498-2461. Tues., 8 p.m. $8. 18+.