Sun July 28
In the middle of this era of scratchy, disjointed, and unshowered art rock, local band The Badger King has released a sweeping, epic, magical, and pretty rock-pop opera, entitled The Lighthouse, The Giant. Très gauche! And, while the record does meet a few bumps in the musical road, as a whole, it's an ambitious and successful undertaking, held together by the wonderful, belted-out passion of core members Marianna Ritchey and Jona Bechtolt.
Blessed with the same off-kilter, grandiose thematic/production weirdness that characterizes bands like The Microphones or Flaming Lips (and maybe a little Mothers of Invention), The Badger King also parallels the over-the-top pop melodies of musicals such as Hair and Jesus Christ Superstar. Pushing this along is Ritchey's awesome voice, which sounds like it will burst with its own goddamn maniacal happiness. This is a good thing; though I haven't much of a clue WHAT, exactly, The Badger King's rock opera is about (unlike Andrew Lloyd Webber, they apparently don't have the cash for 65-page CD booklets), her voice is so raw and convincing, you're just rooting for her character.
Backed up by guitars, glockenspiel, mouth harp, electronics, chord organ, drums, keys, accordion, and frigging trumpet, for god's sake, The Badger King does a great job of creating the atmosphere of a rock opera, while still making music that doesn't necessarily stay in those confines. Kinda even psychedelic at points--with crystalline keyboards accenting five million, ethereally recorded Ritchey harmonies--The Lighthouse, The Giant makes it easy to imagine the rock-opera's props: giant trees cut out of purple cellophane, fog machines, glittery sea animals, the fractured light of a prism. She sings, "I am in the sky/ I am in the ether/ I won't be home tonight/the sky it is too warm!"
There are a couple points where the humongous harmonies go a little sour (a little off-key, mostly) and the layered production gets slightly over-ambitious (and therefore muddled), but those are issues that will probably be ironed and polished with more experience. Underneath it all, The Badger King's exceptional melodies--and the millions of neat ideas they're not afraid to try--gleam with charm and talent.