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Greetings From Planet Stupider

The Mulchmen's latest CD on Big Beef Records, picks up where last year's "Louder Than Dirt, Thicker Than Mud!" left off. The ethereal theremin that kicks off the album's opening track "Delta Velocity" sets the tone for a record that takes off into some unexpected territory. "Greetings From Planet Stupider" features some of the Mulchmen's most hard-rocking, and most dark and moody, wordless endeavors yet.
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Greetings From Planet Stupider!

THE CONTINENTAL
Their latest release is a fourteen track opus that starts off with some eeirie theremin stylings before launching a nasty guitar driven assault. The theme this time around seems to be outer space (a common theme amongst instro bands it seems), with photos of Earth taken from space and song titles like "Delta Velocity", "YEK-259" and "Danger Todd Robinson". You can definitely hear the influence of Link Wray on these cuts - in all it's another great release from this landlocked combo.

MUZIKMAN
The only thing stupider than a greeting from the planet stupider would be an instro fan not picking up this fine slab of instro delight. The Mulchmen are an immensely talented trio hailing from Dayton. Fitting right in with the mix of things in their sometimes odd and different musical surroundings. The Mulchmen are Nick Kizirnis (cruise director), Brian Hogarth (Co-Pilot) and Gregg Spence (Navigator). I figure that is lead guitar, bass and drums in that order.

Big Beef Records has some prime cuts coming from their studios on this rainbow-colored outing. You can't quantify it as surf yet the influence is echoing in the distance. This is instrumental rock. How do you stick a group like this in a particular genre? You just can't. Tabbed as surf-rock, they prove time and again that it's a very narrow description of their diverse sound. Their range is too far into the distant galaxies of instrumental wanderings to be categorized. This is a really good example of how to use your talent and explore and experiment with music. It's much easier to do when you don't have to sing a note. Let the music do the talkin'. It speaks loud and clear and it works.

I found this group and their music to be entirely enjoyable. I am scratching my head and wondering why I haven't heard more of these guys. They really cook. The group never lets up and is in a fine tuned mode of synchronization. Get smarter and listen to "Greetings From Planet Stupider" instro heads!!

OUTSIGHT
In my flightbook, your best bet for guitar-based entertainment is most often instrumental rock regardless of the planet of origin. The Mulchmen surf from the top of a compost heap of rock history that penetrates the stratosphere. Solid throughout, The Mulchmen's peat-genius is at its most pungent in tracks like the ominous, andante surf of"Backscratcher". It is also apparent from a listening here why the group has fit just as well opening for such acts as surf legends Los Straitjackets and rockabilly guitar god Ronnie Dawson.

The Mulchmen are about the primacy of a succinct, clever guitar melody traversing the middle- and low-ends over a reliable march beat. Like another band they have shared the stage with, Man...Or Astroman?, the Mulchers feel the allure of space references through simple effects and reverb. On "Delta Velocity" the employ this approach while incorporating a Western feel and theremin in their patented unrushed tempo. The power trio opts for a two-guitar approach on "Ripchord". Put it all together and you have an instro-rock band that owes as much to Link Wray and Duane Eddy as they do to Dick Dale. On the final track we get to hear "Dr. Cyclops/Danger Todd Robinson", the two-part scorch-relax-scorch show closer that only the live audiences have previously been privy to. Compared to prior releases, "GREETINGS" is an excellent synthesis of The Mulchmen's fertile blend.

CINCINNATI CITYBEAT
Instrumental surf rock conoisseurs The Mulchmen are celebrating the release of their new full-length, Greetings From Planet Stupider, on Dayton-based Big Beef Records. The follow-up to last year's acclaimed CD "Louder Than Dirt, Thicker Than Mud!" and the more recent cassette-only release "Covered With Mulch", the new CD features 14 more solid, surf-inspired explorations courtesy of guitarist Nick Kizirnis, bassist Brian Hogarth and drummer Gregg Spence. Even people who don't think Dick Dale is God won't be able to keep from digging the sounds this trio creates.

INK 19
Unless you are one of those twits who just cannot get their little minds around the concept of music with no lyrics, you will love this record. Calling it "surf" is grossly unfair to The Mulchmen, and would be misleading to you, dear reader. This is the second CD I've gotten from this Midwestern instrumental trio and they've both been smashing. The Mulchmen truly have something for everyone (well, with the exception of the aforementioned twits). They can be surfy, or do the semi-silly "spaceman rock" complete with theremin effects, but there's so much more to The Mulchmen than that. They can rock out like Link Wray, add Brit Invasion touches to the next song, and throw in Middle Eastern flourishes on the next. You need this record. -Brian Kruger

THE NEW GANDY DANCER (U.K.)
All originals CD from the USA's Midwest surf heroes The Mulchmen; Nick Kizirnis (guitars, theremin), Brian Hogarth (bass) and Gregg Spence (drums). Amazingly deep and dramatic first cut with the thrashing drums and wild guitar of Delta Velocity. The Stalker is lively and A Pocketful Of Pennies features some neat guitar touches and is definately a little weird - original might be another word. It's all been carefully rehearsed and it presents a new slant on the band's previous surf style. YEK-259 is a powerhouse slice of chord structure while Lowdown is a little more melodic with lots of tasty guitar runs and good supporting bass and drums. The Egyptian feel is evident on Automatic Egypt and the whole album has a "let's try a new approach" feel which is fair enough. The group are one of our favourites, but may have to take care they don't stray too far away from the surf sound, which I don't think this is. It's fine but it may just appeal to newer, younger new age surf fans rather than the grandads and ho-dads of authentic sixties surf. - Davy

HANG NINE (U.K.)
Having enjoyed The Mulchmen's last album, "Louder Than Dirt, Thicker Than Mud!", it was a pleasure to receive their latest offering in the post recently. "Greetings From Planet Stupider" has, as you might imagine, something of a space theme, each track being tagged with a "flight number," opening with the low theremin hum of "Delta Velocity".

Nick Kizirnis, Cruise Director and guitarist, leads The Mulchmen on their merry way through some pretty powerful territory; personal favourites being the double-picked mayhem of "The Stalker", the Pink Panther-esque "Go-Go Boot Camp", the particularly tuneful "Pocketful of Pennies", the bizarrely named "Tiddytwister", the vaguely...er...Shadows-ish "Shadow Walk" (as you know, I'm a sucker for all things Shad) and the heavy metal of "Dr. Cyclops/Danger Todd Robinson".

If I were to make two criticisms they would be these: there is no great variety of sound on display here; The Mulchmen are a three-piece, with the occasional addition of the theremin and a lot of the tunes are tonally very similar. Did I say two criticisms? Ah yes - why no titles to rival the fabulous "A Man With No Reverb Is No Man At All", from "Louder Than Di..."? I guess that's a fairly small criticism! - Jon Deadman

GAJOOB
This is fun! A garage-type trio with no lyrics, thick and moody sounds and fun guitar solos. Every track appears to have been recorded live in the studio (it's got that "roomy analog sound" to it). "Greetings..." sounds like three talented musicians jamming. The 12 tracks spanning 44 minutes stay interesting and fun while never utilizing a single vocal. The Mulchmen would make great background music to an ESPN extreme sports clip presentation, or highlight clips as a music video... stuff like that! "Greetings..." is more than just retro-surf, the elements of James Bond type guitar-based instrumentals, pop, and even punk make this CD... well I guess I have to use the word again... fun! Surf's up, dudes, rock on with The Mulchmen! - Shane Matsumoto

THE DAYTON VOICE
Greetings From Planet Stupider:
"The Making of Two Records and a Wedding by The Mulchmen"
by Don Thrasher

When we showed "Dr. Cyclops/Danger Todd Robinson" to Brian, Gregg Spence says, "he goes, 'this isn't surf. You're not pulling something over on me. We're not playing surf'."

For the last four years, Spence (drums), Nick Kizirnis (guitar, theremin) and Brian Hogarth (bass), under the guise of The Mulchmen, have been blurring the lines between surf music and instrumental rock. "Dr. Cyclops/Danger Todd Robinson", the closing cut on the trio's excellent new LP, "Greetings From Planet Stupider" (Big Beef Records), shows how far the group has progressed over the years. The cut is actually a two part medley that dramatically meshes two unrelated songs together. It starts off as a minute long garagey, four-to-the-floor romp then rides a wave of distorted guitar into the second portion. Suddenly the song is a moody creeper with Kizirnis' guitar providing a nice pop melody line. As things progress, the song builds from a pretty ballad into the heart of a disaster zone with drums bashing, guitar raging and theremin wailing like a siren.

The Mulchmen started as a fun little project. Nothing more than a couple of friends, veteran rockers quickly approaching the 30 mark,getting together to have fun, rip on each other and learn a bunch of surf covers. As an added laugh, Kizirnis, Spence and Hogarth decided to try their hand at writing some original instrumental tunes.

The months passed and soon the instrumental trio had a set full of mostly original material and, as it turned out, a bunch of damn good songs. The musicians were having so much fun and so were the growing crowds that flocked to the Mulchmen's shows that they decided to concentrate more on new material. Soon the side project was their primary musical focus. Enter longtime friend, video producer and local record maven, Andy Valeri, who offered to release an LP on his locally based Big Beef Records. The Mulchmen headed into the studio and began work on their full length debut. In the meantime, Indianapolis-based label, recordhead, stepped in to release the 7" single, "All the News That's Fit to Surf". "Louder Than Dirt, Thicker Than Mud!", the group's full-length debut, followed in mid-'97. The record replaced themes of water and sun with more earthen elements, bastardizing their surf with forays into instrumental pop, punk and rockabilly. It was fitting for an instrumental group from the landlocked Midwest. The record did better than the trio imagined, even finding a spot on MTV. Two of the music network's program's, "The Real World" and "RoadRules", repeatedly used tracks from Louder Than Dirt.

This summer The Mulchmen started work on their new full-length CD while also completing Covered With Mulch, a cassette-only release of covers like Link Wray's "Rawhide" and "Jack The Ripper", "Shake Some Evil" by Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet and the Tornadoes' "Bustin' Surfboards". "After we finished the first record it didn't feel like it was time to stop," Spence says of the group's busy recording schedule. "We just wanted to keep going. I was just learning how to record. I learned about drums sounds and getting the guitar sound. I started listening to albums differently than I had been before. I had been in the studio for a little bit of time and [had] really gotten my hands on the equipment. I was really into it", Spence says. "Gregg spent a lot of time on micing techniques for the new record," Kizirnis adds. "He went in and spent an evening setting up the drums and getting a good sound. We spent some time on guitar too, but a lot of time on the drums because he had very specific ideas. When it came back around weeks later and we mixed, it was like, bam, the album laid itself out because the drum sound was there. The effect was powerful for us. You know, wow, this is it," Kizirnis says.

Recording and releasing two albums at one time is a big undertaking even under the best of situations, but this year the Mulchmen pulled it off despite many life changing events. "I got married this year so Gregg and Andy produced the record," Kizirnis says. "It was something they had been wanting to do so they were kind of running the show." "We were producing two records and a wedding at the same time," Valeri adds. "It got pretty crazy." "It's like 'Three Weddings and A Funeral', Spence says with a chuckle. "Two records and a wedding," Spence, Kizirnis and Valeri say in unison, followed by much laughter.

In the six month period it took to get the record from the recording studio to a finished project, the Mulchmen had more than Kizirnis' impending nuptials to contend with. Around that time, all three musicians changed jobs and their lives got even more hectic. Hogarth, a family man, had to juggle work and a home life and find time to practice, record and perform live. Even though the group was still a fun project, it took some scheduling maneuvers to pull everything off. "We had to deal with the complications of personal lives," Valeri says. "Everybody's jobs were becoming more intensive, plus we were all in Nick's wedding, so we had to deal with different arrangements."

"I'll never again record anything when anyone near me is getting married," Spence interjects. "If I even hear about a wedding, that's it, the recording's off," Kizirnis adds, as the conversation veers off into laughter, more jokes and personal asides.


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