Music writing usually goes like this: Listen to a band, determine which genre to file them under, describe their sound with a few colorful adjectives, metaphors, and analogies, then inject your opinion on whether or not their efforts were successful. The formula rarely ever fails. Until it does. And when it does, you’re fucked.

Nasalrod completely obliterates any preconceived notions about the boundaries of genre and traditional songwriting. There isn’t any formula for what they do. The Portland band’s new record, Building Machines, will force you to reconsider the capabilities of guitar, bass, and drums. 

The album has no skeletal structure—it’s a formless mass of gonzo musical weirdness. If Building Machines had a spine, though, it’d be punk, because most of the tracks are in-your-face, unhinged, and mildly confrontational. Guitarist Mustin Douch’s style is similar to Dead Kennedys’ East Bay Ray; Douch’s approach is nuanced, and, with the help of some well-placed effects, very theatrical. The band’s vocalist, Chairman, is quite flamboyant and hard to pin down. He growls, sneers, and soulfully belts in a strange vibrato, like a carnival barker who’s having some kind of psychotic break. 

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Punk typically implies simplicity, but there’s nothing simple about Building Machines. Each song has verses, bridges, and choruses, but the way they’re strung together is a head-scratcher. Most of the jaw-dropping structural strangeness comes from Douch and drummer Spit Stix—if there’s a ghost note or an odd timing trick, they can exploit it. Thankfully, the bass lines of Mandy Morgan bolster the rest of the band’s unbridled madness. If it weren’t for the base (pun sort of intended) she provides, the whole record would spiral out of control.

Nasalrod is a music writer’s nightmare. But if you like your musicianship uncanny and your style adventurous, Building Machines will have you perplexed and loving it.

Althea Mock