The problem with Beef Kitchen is that I’m totally onto their game. Their debut release is a CD, a single, 22 minute release titled “guided meditation.” But what follows on the disc are a number of performances, many of which are drenched in effected guitar, accompanied by voice and drums, and presented as mysteriously as you can in this digital age. In fact, I received a message saying that the album was available at Guitar Castle, and it was only in the time since that a digital version grudgingly appeared on Bandcamp. (beefkitchen.bandcamp.com). Billing themselves as “desert psychedelia,” they mine equal parts Syd Barrett era Pink Floyd, the noise rock sound of the early 2000’s, and Spaceman 3’s Taking Drugs to Make Music To Take Drugs To.
But the catch is, they are trying to mask their chops in all the mystery and weirdness, and for that, I need to call them out. “Had a friend and he was a wolfman,” they sing out, and in that “song” you can not only hear the guitarwork at its best, but the effects are spare enough to reveal how good these guys are. The lyrics, while tongue in cheek and delivered as such, are actually getting at something at times, as if to make it appear as if any brilliance were an accident. Near the end of “guided meditation,” there are a pair of songs that demonstrate the metronomic quality of the drums, which would be a nice thing for all this reverb and distortion to hang itself on. They almost hit a sort of surf rock stride at one point, but they are never far from a psychedelic freak out, or some tongue-in-cheek singing. But they can’t fool this trained ear. Through the humming amplifiers, Lou Barlow production quality nods and affectations, these guys are just far too good. Why are they hiding it?
Perhaps this is a ruse? Or maybe an attempt to draw or attention away from the real story, like a newly elected president who is completely outrageous and causes us to miss what’s really happening. They do seem to be extremely pro jazz cigarettes, and recommend you have them before you listen. Their packaging almost evokes Gary Wilson mixed with Nick Cave, but their request that we “stay greezy” and the use of an actual slab of beef on the cover seems to belie these influences, or at least cast them in a different light, anyway. While my editor was quick to point out who the folks involved are, and what their former projects might be, after some consideration I decided to leave that information out of my review. (You can find that elsewhere, easy enough.) In the same way that I stopped caring who Jandek really was very quickly, I’m not sure I want to know much more about Beef Kitchen. Their entire aesthetic is that of mis-matched influences, performances, art school aesthetics and actual rock chops that I want this to just be something that the universe manifested, in all of its confused and malformed glory.
Beef Kitchen is certainly my new Summer Jam, and something that you will not want to miss if you can avoid it. While I’m pretty sure I know the answer, I just need to find out for myself: do they really play with their sunglasses on, too?