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Record Reappraisal: The Lounge Lizards – Voice Of Chunk

Journey into the realm of punk-influenced, no wave-inspired jazz of the Lounge Lizards.

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Released 1988 via Strange and Beautiful Music.

The Lounge Lizards were an experimental group formed by two brothers in 1978, John and Evan Lurie. By combining elements of experimental jazz, free improvisation and minimalistic repetition, they created a sound which was a niche genre within itself. One of the most prominent features of their music was the particular strong sax line, juxtaposed with laid back beats and cross rhythms.

Voice Of Chunk was released 10 years into their flow—once they were comfortable and familiar with their sound. Many have described this as one of The Lounge Lizards’ lesser albums, yet for me it combines two elements of their sounds in subtle harmony; it effortlessly blends their noisy anarchy-like sound with a smooth melodic side. The album itself is a story or even a journey, taking you through all the complexities and wonders of all aspects of the Voice Of Chunk.

The album starts with ‘Bob The Bob’—for me, one of the best songs on the record. It is so, so incredibly smooth. It begins with a silky sax line that tastes creamy—the guitar, piano and drums all tinker in, fitting like cogs spinning in a well-oiled machine. This song starts slow, creeps up on you, and then slyly knocks you over with frankly, some serious side-rhythms. At only 2 minutes long, it’s one of the gentler but sexier tracks.

This moves seamlessly into the title track, ‘Voice Of Chunk’. This feels like a natural development upon the previous track, incorporation a slightly angrier  dual sax voice that never quite synchronises with a thrashy piano and jumpy beat. The sexy Bob The Bob grows into a fiery cross-rhythm paradise full. The prominent feature of this track is the constantly repeated but always so slightly different sax melody. It shows the ability to develop the melody in a pretty sophisticated manner, which lets the listener lose themselves into the music.

‘One Big Yes’ comes as yet another natural progression pushing you further into the soundscape of The Lounge Lizards. As a fairly similar track to Voice Of Chunk in structure and layout, it sounds remarkably different, with a strong driving riff. This song feels like you’re being propelled forwards, with the chords that never quite settle on a root, throbbing drums.

A final touch on a song worth hearing is ‘Tarantella’. Imagine a Spanish fairground that engages in pyrotechnics and a sense of terrifying decor that doesn’t quite fit. An entirely different song to the rest of the album, it’s wonderfully catchy and acts as a brilliant anthem showing the admirable personality of the group. It has a jaunty piano fairground riff which gets overpowered by spooky screaming instruments and a tongue in cheek vocal refrain.

This is jazz with a cinematic sensibility. As an album, not one song acts as a weak point, each bringing something further to the fore. It can be so wonderful because it doesn’t just showcase the smooth and tasty sections, it stands strong and pisses the ugly parts right down your throat, as they say in ‘Tarantella’, “And we’re proud of it, oh so proud of it, that’s just the kind of guys we are”. It’s both a soft dream and hard hitting kick in the gut. I’m not a fan of the word quirky, but the word is fitting to describe this niche corner of jazz. If you listen and enjoy, have a gander at their 1981 album The Lounge Lizards for an angrier, harder hitting, and toe-crushing performance.