Diablo Swing Orchestra – Pandora's Pinata – 5/5
If you've never seen the band live you won't quite understand how eclectic an experience it is. Sure, you get the token group of youngsters forming a mosh pit as seems compulsory with any band with any vague resemblance to metal (though I have no idea why) and the guys at the front limited in movement by the crushing swarm behind them to the token 'nod of appreciation,' but it's when you get a little further back that things get more interesting. The shy kid shuffling his feet in the corner somehow finds himself progressing into a full blown running man; a strange sort of square dance that would fit 'Cotton Eye Joe' just as well (though being a Swedish Redneck inspired Techno/Folk/Bluegrass band, they're a little bit odd themselves), convincing strangers that often need quite frankly very little convincing into joining the party, with some weird skanking on the side. I expect it's been out of vogue for long enough that nobody can quite remember how to dance the swing jazz inspired portions, and so nobody seems has a clue how really to react to the music, everyone reacting in a different way. The only thing that's a certain is that you will react, and it's this little fact that the band has played on here.
If describing their sound was difficult when they first emerged the problems have compounded even further; if before they could largely be defined by their combination of hard hitting metallic beats and their swing jazz influences, topped off with the operatic vocalist of course, then no longer does that feel the case. I'm not going to even try; you name a genre, odds are it's in there. One track opens up to a sort of noise rock/Shibuya-Kei (Bossa Nova/Electro/J-pop) blend. Opens. As in, is that way for maybe a minute before progressing in some other direction. There's a sort of Industrial/Dub-Step breakdown at one point (I mean, why not?). If I'm honest, their debut at times came across as a little two-tone; either they came out swinging with a dominative Jazz element or it felt a little smothered in Classical tones. Now sure, at some points it feels like a lost 'Madamme Butterfly' track, and others wouldn't go amiss on a Buddy Rich album, pandering ever more to the extremes of their original style, but there's so much variety in between. Some bands are able to break the mould and succeed in finding a niche sound. Fewer still are capable of varying that sound with each new album in order to keep things fresh. Diablo Swing Orchestra have gone one step further, re-inventing themselves on each track, and the scariest thing about it all is just how well it seems to fit despite every fibre of my being telling me how much it shouldn't.
The album's title, too, feels much more than a simple play on words, alluding to the tale of Pandora's Box; a Greek myth where Pandora opened her mysterious box and released all the evil unto the world. If Pandora carefully opened it, unaware of the consequences of doing so but driven by curiosity, these guys are blindly beating it with a stick to see what comes out for fun. There are atmospheric passages of such emotional weight that you'll find yourself getting bleary eyed, even if the chances are it'll have come so abruptly you'll have no idea why (and if you pay attention to the lyrics, you'll just get even more confused). You'll want to bang your head and dance to the funky grooves. Often you'll want to do all three at the same time. Most bands strive to accomplish one, and many can't even quite do that, so to do all three is quite the feat. Guys, you've really outdone yourselves on this one.
Highlights: Guerilla Laments, Black Box Messiah, Exit Strategy of a Wrecking Ball