Catfish Courtesy - "?!" (Insignificant Press 2002, CDR)
Spyvanhoe - s/t (Insignificant Press 2003, CDR)
From Aural Innovations #23 (April 2003)
?! is the latest release from Indiana band Catfish Courtesy. These five recent high school graduates definitely play their own style of very lo-fi, first take is good enough, improvised, garage rock noise. It’s loose, wild, and sometimes a little awkward. But there’s a kind of a charming naiveté to it, like an art rock version of The Shaggs. But don’t get me wrong! There’s also a lot of good ideas here. The band gets into some loose funk grooves, and throws in everything from free jazz craziness and slacker female vocals to arty Sonic Youth style noise and punk wailing. They also have a sense of humor. On the track Our Band is Stuck Underwater, one of the guys bubbles away like a drowning clown while the band riffs away in the background and singer Lindsay Boggs intones in a totally serious manner, “Our band is stuck in a box-a box underwater. Drowning in a box under the water”. A few other high points: the opening track, just simply titled ? is one of their best and certainly funkiest jams, and they do a noisy, broken down cover of Lean on Me, sounding like they’re all leaning on each other, or anything solid nearby.
If you’ve heard Catfish Courtesy, then you may just recognize something in the sound of Spyvanhoe. That’s because Spyvanhoe is three of the members of Catfish Courtesy, Nick Empey on bass and electric guitars, Phil Skaggs on electric guitars, and Tom Kenning on drums. The sound is similar to Catfish Courtesy’s: still lo-fi jams, but it’s all instrumental, and a little more polished and focused. The jams are more structured and there’s more attention paid to the strange and quirky melodies. And when I say more focused, I mean that there is a loose concept to the album-namely, it’s intended as the soundtrack to “the greatest spy-space movie never made”. The songs all have that 60’s surf rock, lounge jazz, spy adventure thang going on. Spyvanhoe also retains the sense of humor that Catfish Courtesy has. Some of their song titles are hilarious like Spaghetti-Etiquette’s Quandry and Mechanism to Forget Pauly Shore. I enjoyed the Spyvanhoe a little more than the Catfish Courtesy, but that’s just my tastes. You can decide for yourself.
The bands make it no secret, and in fact are quite proud of the fact that most of their discography is available for free download, through their web site at: http://www.geocities.com/catfishcourtesy/. Spyvanhoe has a mini-page that’s also part of this site.
Reviewed by Jeff Fitzgerald