Back in 1996 with the release of ‘Jet Crash Kills’, Austria’s The Base set out upon a mission of challenging preconceived notions of music by gelling unique lyrical metaphors with a fresh outlook on that all important pop hook. Their more angled view of the world is always intelligent without ever being condescending.
Many artists trying to break new musical ground sound contrived and ultimately miss the mark. True genius is found subtly hidden between bar chords and back beat; between hollers and volume. And it’s in that shadowy place where The Base truly excels. You can enjoy the word play, orchestration, melodies, harmonies or you can just jump around and have fun.
Their new release, ‘Things to Remember : Ways to Forget’ is a two-CD set (six songs each) and has a mellower sound with more complex arrangements than their previous releases. Wonderfully creative songs and the interesting addition of horns, keys and even an accordion make for a perfect stage on which the sometimes surreal lyrics can dance.
Some standout tracks for me include ‘Perfect Hearts’. The soft acoustic guitar and floating, flute-like keyboard line opener cued me in on just how different a record this is for them. The lyrics reminded me of the time I visited members of the band in Graz, Austria. Our bodies were beat from partying and performing, but our spirits were strong. At least that’s how I’d like to think of it.
We’re underweight and oversmoked
We cough our lungs out on the street
But we got perfect hearts
It also reminds me of an email I received from singer/guitarist Norbert Wally shortly after I had returned to New Jersey. It seems that, despite our overindulgences, he had passed a physical checkup with flying colors. I on the other had took several weeks to recuperate.
– Listen To: [Perfect Hearts]
A tune that is admittedly more autobiographical is ‘Basement Days’ which reminisces back to a time when my friend and musical collaborator Eric Schmitz lived with Norbert in Graz. I particularly like the percussion on this which is a sparse and more metallic collection of rhythms ala Tom Waits.
– Listen To: [Basement Days]
Other highlights for me are ‘Hanging My Head in the Sun (when the Sun’s gone)’ which includes a very cleverly and effectively placed trumpet part. The word heavy bop of ‘Not My Dog’ makes it the catchiest tune here that takes off into a gypsy folk frenzy towards he end. ‘My My My My’ by far harkens the most back to the early days of the band with its stripped down production, distorted guitar and belted vocals in the chorus. It is my favorite track.
– Listen To: [Hanging My Head in the Sun] [Not My Dog] [My My My My]
The members of The Base have remarkably been able to remain true to their artistic integrity in the face of an apathetic music industry and its usual obstacles. Their most recent setback came when their European distributor went out of business. So for the time being this CD may not be easy to find, but do yourself a favor and seek it out by contacting the band. You will not be disappointed.