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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! REVERB CENTRAL
Like their last album, it took a few listens to get into, but once there, I loved it. More great writing, and more fun. Under the rock structures is lurking sophistication and charm. Some very good writing, some interesting arranging, and some solid listening. More rock than surf, but certainly within the broad scope of the genre...

DELTA VELOCITY - This begins with a whirring air raid danger courtesy a theremin. It moves into a dark brooding melody that plunders as it rumbles by. Solid ominous evil surf rock instrumental.

BACKSCRATCHER - Thick progression, like a minor Link Wray fun. There are more than subtle hints of the Fillmore era, like a cross between the Flamin' Groovies and Osceola.

SPANK THE LIGHTNING - This is an "Out Of Limits" kinda thing, more edgie and intense than that, but in that mold. A dangerous riff, and a sense of waiting for the aliens at Area 51. Sci-Fi Surf Rock Instrumental.

THE STALKER - This is a solid surf number, with a fine double picked lead. It's not structured like trad, but it makes the grade. A progression lead, a bunch of drama in the breaks, and watery imagery. Nice track.

GO-GO BOOT CAMP - The title would hint of the go-go sounds of the sixties, but that is nowhere to be found, except in the melody line, with is sorta super hero picnic like. This is an unusual tune that I found myself drawn to as I listened. It snuck up on me. Dramatic and rhythmic.

POCKETFUL OF PENNIES - This is a great track. It has a sense of connection about it. The melody is sophisticated and warm. The playing is well phrased. It reminds me of some of the German prog rock of the seventies, like maybe Epitaph. A very nice track.

YEK-259 - I'm guessing that "YEK-259" is a license plate number. This is a minimal slightly surfy number, with a nifty melody and a quirky kinda structure. Quite cool.

LOWDOWN - This reminds me a bit of the Ultras, though the sound is certainly not Vanilla Sludge. Thick and grindy, plucky and almost silly.

AUTOMATIC EGYPT - Funky automatons on the Nile, in title only. I don't think there's much here middle eastern, but that aside, this is a pretty nifty number. Many changes, and many cool dramatic arrangement bits. Like a detective story without a trench coat, this cries out for a flickering streetlight, the scent of recently chewed Juicy Fruit¨, and a Fedora¨.

TIDDYTWISTER - This is a playful little number, probably infectious with the dancing crowd. Nicely played, rhythmic, and suave.

DEMANDING THE IMPOSSIBLE - "Demanding The Impossible" sneaks up on you. At first I thought "what do I say about this?" Then, I found myself liking the writing a lot. It is the ambient drums that bother me. Otherwise, this is a really good and very rhythmic track, with a friendly melody and an infectious arrangement.

SHADOW WALK - This is a very slow and pretty number, sad and moody, but not dark. The sticker on the shrink wrap refers to this as a "Latvian surf ballad." It does have an eastern European feel to it, but the melody seems more fifties Hollywood to me. It's quite a pleasant track.

RIPCHORD - Solid riff rockin' chord grind... The break is cool, and the darkness of it is powerful once past the main theme.

DR. CYCLOPS / DANGER TODD ROBINSON - Warning! Warning! Robot's approaching! Tonally like the Kinks sorta for the "Dr. Cyclops" half of the track, and frankly, I was ready to dismiss it. The "Danger Todd Robinson" half is more brooding and moody, more melodic and interesting. Sci-Fi Rock Instrumental. - Phil Dirt

With their second full-length CD, The Mulchmen come to full fruition as a great, lean, dark, melodic surf-spy band with no need to rely on gimmickry like theremin swoops and novelty song titles like "A Man With No Reverb Is No Man At All." With the self-confidence to bring out their serious mature side in compositions like "Tiddytwister" and "Go-Go Boot Camp," The Mulchmen here make it clear with abundance that this genre does not necessarily need to be treated as the retro-space-age kitsch- schlock-camp that bands like The whatever that band was that opened for the Ventures that time I saw them was called. The guys with the space suits or whatever. Bachman-Turner Overdrive or whatever they were.

No sir, The Mulchmen come from the Ventures' school of belief that says just because every song in the genre sounds somewhat similar, that doesn't mean that every song has to have the same riff. Same drumbeat? Sure. Same guitar tone and diggida-diggida-diggida high-speed playing style? Yep, that too. Minor keys? Yes. Notey solos in the middle? Absolutely. But THE MELODIES DO NOT ALL HAVE TO BE VARIATIONS ON "PIPELINE"! Now I'm not trying to argue that The Mulchmen are the most creative band in history or that they have any chance of mainstream success or even of being considered anything other than a retro-surf band by 95% of the population - but the mere fact that they bother TRYING to be good - and, more importantly, the fact that they so often SUCCEED at it - is remarkable and worth appreciating. I mean, this entire album is really good - and there's not a single cover tune on it! What other surf albums can you say that about aside from The Surf Punks' timeless "Oh No! Not Them Again!" LP?

Dayton, Ohio's Mulchmen have scored once again with their newest disc. Equal parts surf, Link Wray, Ventures, spy music and all out instro rock 'n' roll with a Theremin chaser, this trio's second album isn't just more of the same. It actually improves on their predecessor with punchier tunes, punchier production and Nick Kizirnis' guitar at its tastiest yet. Songs like "Lowdown," "Ripchord" and "Backscratcher" show that the band can rock out with the best of 'em, while "Shadow Walk" and "Go Go Boot Camp" demonstrate their capabilities with slower, moodier tunes. Either way, jump on this joyride to Planet Stupider at your earliest possible convenience. You may come back with a few less marbles, but you'll still enjoy the trip.

"Greetings from Planet Stupider" finds the Mulchmen expanding the orbits of their surfy guitar instrumentals. The fittingly spacy album opener "Delta Velocity", jangly pop of "Pocketful of Pennies" and gritty, earthy "Backscratcher" showcase the band's sonic horizons, while "The Stalker", "Go-Go Boot Camp" and "Dr. Cyclops/Danger Todd Robinson" approach a more traditionally beachy sound. Kizirnis' versatile guitar playing and keening theremin give the Mulchmen a stylish, stylized take on instrumental rock. - Heather Phares

The follow up to 1997's "Louder Than Dirt, Thicker Than Mud!" finds the trio further blurring the lines between surf music and instrumental rock by incorporating elements of punk, rockabilly and pop. The perfect soundtrack to everything from washing the dishes and lounging by the pool to vacuuming the cat or getting down with your significant other. Functional as hell and you can also dance to it. What more do you need?

Surfer Review: Oh, man, like wow. I mean, dude. It's like they just... I mean, like I said, "No way!" to my buds and they said, "Dude, Yeeeeah!". There's this one song that just like, you know, zoooom, bang! Duuude woooohh....
Stupid Review: You couldn't not hardley heer the vokles er nuthin', and it don't sound nuthin' like AC/DC...
Martian Review: Attention citizensof Earth! Do not buy this propagandist slander. Got to your leader (or local library) and demand to know the truth about Mars. ZaBod don't surf! We are watching you! That is all!
Livestock Review: Moo.
SuperchunkSteve Review: Every damn review of The Mulchmen that I read starts out with "Surf from Ohio?". Well, not this one, buddy. You can kiss my mulchy butt if you think you're getting that old line from me! With this new weapon, The Mulchmen now wield supreme power in the surf universe! Nothing can stop them now! Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha...... - Superchunk Steve

Interview By Mike Breen
While Dayton, Ohio, may seem like one of the least likely places for an instrumental, surf-influenced band to form, The Mulchmen have proven it's an easier fit than words might suggest. Remember, only one of The Beach Boys ever surfed, and he died from drowning.

Though it's an easy peg, the Dayton-based band is more than a retro surf band, bringing in elements of other instrumental music and mixing them all up with their own brand of reverberated artistry. With three full-length releases under their belts - including the new, impressively developed "Greetings From Planet Stupider" on Dayton label Big Beef - the group has taken the Gem City music scene by storm, amassing one of the city's bigger band followings after debuting about four years ago as the openers for surf legend Dick Dale.

There's a certain MulchSpeak developed by the group that, in grand Dayton style, bluntly sums up the band's approach. Recurring motto: "We're not going to sing." And don't call 'em a surf band: It's KAPOWEE music, pure and simple. CityBeat discussed the group's beginnings and current state with guitarist and theremin expert Nick Kizirnis, who is joined in the band by his brothers in telepathy, drummer Gregg Spence and bassist Brian Hogarth.

How long had you been listening to surf music? Was it something you always wanted to do or did your interest come later?

As I kid my Dad played Duane Eddy for me, which I really liked. I didn't really follow the genre, but I would hear punk bands play surf songs, and would come across groups like the Raybeats that I liked. Gregg and Brian had similar experiences (without the Duane Eddy part). Sharon from (Dayton band) Real Lulu and Andy from Big Beef introduced me to Link Wray and Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet, and all the connections were made...at that point I realized I had always thrown in surf-type stuff into my playing, but I never thought of that way.

Your bio made mention of this possibility: do you guys dislike being referred to as a Surf band?

Well, its not entirely accurate. We're influenced by Western soundtracks, spy movies, surf, punk, and pop. Although we stil are surf-y sounding, we don't try to fit into tha genre. We like to keep changing it up. Calling us an instrumental band is more accurate, though maybe not as clear

What about the music made you want to play it and form a band?

The three of us were all influenced by punk rock - Ramones, Clash, Replacements, Costello, The Jam, Sex Pistols. Gregg was into other hardcore, Brian into a lot of punk pop, and We all liked some new wave (like Devo, not Haircut100). Also of note is Gregg's appreciation for Black Sabbath, Mott the Hoople, and almost everything else.

What Surf artists initially caught your interest and made you want to start the band?

Duane Eddy Santo and Johhny and Link Wray. But they're not surf. Frankie Camaro and Dragstrip, Dick Dale, The Surfaris, The Impacts, and a million bands we never knew the names of on compilations!

What would your ideal bill to play on be?

Today? Los Straitjackets and Ronnie Dawson with special guests ... The Mulchmen!!

How did you get the theremin involved with the band's music?

My friend Ed Lacy and I wanted one from the days we were in (Dayton band) Cage. We both eventually got one, but Cage was over. I was really taken by the eeire qualities and just had to find one. I really enjoy trying to work into our music, to add some other strange element to what we do.

I've seen you play in Dayton and the audience just ate every note up. What do you attribute your success, specifically in Dayton, to?

Besides a lot of luck, we have been playing a long time, and we're at the point where we want to have a good time. We don't have a big rock act, we're just going to play some fun (and hopefully interesting) music. And we're not going to sing.

Overall, how do you feel about the state of the Dayton music scene today? How has it developed or regressed?

Dayton music always has its ups and downs, periods of big activity and then not much...right now it seems to be picking up again. Bands like RobtheBank, Let's Crash and Shrug all feature people who have a lot of experience and are really doing a good job. So are Real Lulu, The Tasties and Johnny Smoke. What's great about Dayton is that no matter what's popular, you always have really off-the-wall bands like Johnny Smoke. Dayton is always filled with really good musicians and songwriters.

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