Megapuss is a collaboration between Devendra Banhart and Greg Rogove (of Priestbird and drummer for Devendra’s touring band). Released at the end of 2008, coverage is just starting to appear in earnest and I’m including the latest batch below.
It’s not exactly a super group, but it gets close. Devendra Banhart, his drummer Noah Georgeson and a roomful of friends from the Strokes, Priestboy, Little Joy and a few other bands jam into a studio and check all pretensions at the door. Some songs drift toward the humorous, while others play it more down the middle, like the difference between “Crop Circle Jerk ’94” and “Theme from Hollywood.” Either way, it’s a kick to hear musicians not worry about anything but pleasing themselves. Naturally, Megapuss doesn’t go too near the ocean, but Surfing does have enough California sunshine splattered across it to earn some serious bona fides along the way. Banhart knows his way around the esoteric recycling center, and is the perfect guide to take this crew traipsing out among the ephemera. There are roots in Captain Beefheart’s Magic Band, to be sure, along with John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s esoteric wanderings. In fact, some of the album graphics are just a step beyond their Two Virgins concept, with the addition of a well-placed butcher knife. Guess that’s what the difference of 40 years will do. And of all the left-field communiquÃ©s here, nothing gets close to “A Gun on His Hip and a Rose on His Chest.” To a percussively-perfect Bo Diddley beat, Megapuss proceed to get as profane as they can in denigrating the establishment, which is exactly what you’d expect from a crowd like this and would no doubt make Mr. Diddley smile if he were still among us. The follow-up, “Chicken Titz,” slows things down considerably, and in another world would have been an American Bandstand standard on a distant planet. Think of this album as something the house band in Soylent Green recorded while their food supply was on the low side, and though hunger pains are never quite as severe as hallucinations, in the end it’s whatever gets you through the fright, right? Bill Bentley/SonicBoomers.com 1/8/09
Oh, what the psilocybin-soaked winds have blown in – a supergroup of sorts, oozed from the present psychedelic undercurrent of the indie scene. Gregory Rogove of Priestbird and Fabrizio Moretti and Noah Georgeson of The Strokes join folk superhero Devendra Banhart to form Megapuss. Incredible name, right? It took me longer to throw this CD into the lineup than it should have, and early reviews laughed Surfing off as too silly, too weird, etc. etc. And when you say those things about these guys, the shit has to be crazy, right?
Yes, but what no one mentioned is that the songs on Surfing are pretty darn-tootin’-good. It’s hard to take this as anything other than a Devendra Banhart album, as it’s driven by that sexually ambiguous aura that he’s always touting. I picture Banhart pulling his sex behind him in a cute little red wagon, along with sunshine, a bag of weed, a single baby tear, an acoustic guitar, and his unmistakable feminine howl. But what seems to set Megapuss apart from Banhart’s solo efforts is the steady rock backbeat that The Strokes boys provide – nothing heavy or complicated, but rhythms that are in sync and necessary to the music.
What really makes Surfing, however, is the obvious goal these guys strive for: to have fun making music. Lennon and McCartney professed this as their songwriting aim, and it seems the art should be resuscitated for this reason if for nothing else. Not that Megapuss compares to The Beatles, but they’ve produced a solid album while having what sounds like a hell of a time. On “Duck People Duck Man” they profess their love of hummus, and in “A Gun On His Hip” they propose screwing people and objects and ideas in the ass, on a massive scale – but all in good fun. Listen, laugh, and get your freakfolk on with Surfing. Taylor Angert/Eastern Surf Magazine January
When Devendra Banhart emerged, I was among the many to accuse him of trying to be/grant him the mantle of being the New Marc Bolan, delicate sylvan noodling of his Tyrannosaurus becoming a sleazier, drug-addled T. But perhaps he is our Arthur Lee without the paranoia that makes such an out cat as Lee so affable. Banhart has Lee’s pampered, scene-king dandy shtick down to a carefully perused script, but mirrors the reversal of the times between then and now. .Surfing vacillates between spot-on to stupid, often in the bounds of the same song. The opener “Crop Circle Jerk ’94” is an infectious nostalgia romp of tambourine and handclaps, like if the Daptones were inflating a minor song from Hair with their secret post-Stax genius. “Theme from Hollywood” is even more insipid than the name suggests, but the Sunset Strip swagger it inhabits is catchy as hell. You wish you were having too much fun too. .Alex Cook/OutsideLeft.com1/10
“Imagination was given to man to compensate him for what he is not; a sense of humor to console him for what he is.” This wise rumination comes to us by the cunning of Sir Francis Bacon. And such statement captures what buddies/collaborators Devandra Banhart and Greg Rogove hoped to achieve by the guise of Megapuss and their recently released Surfing. This album, especially, is an attempt by them to quell said anxieties with humor. ..
Megapuss definitely appears at terms with what it is; you probably cannot pose with your ‘mister meat’ to the air without this being true. But it is when they choose to frolic in an aural nakedness that they really astound. Take the rainforest tinged To the Love Within. Its harmonies are simple and repetitive, but its lure is profound. One can’t help but chant along with the good graces of a chorus that is forever lost in a land of whistles and handclaps. “Theme from Hollywood” is another notable track. One even gets the impression that Hollywood just might be the realm of the happily-ever-after. The song seems pieced together from The Kinks and Donovan shavings (which of course is a sizeable compliment). On further inspection, however, I see little humor in either song. Or even in the seafaring “Crop Circle Jerk ’94,” save for possibly the title. There are instances like “Duck People Duck Man” where the funny is able to combine with the musically sound to fine craft, but they are rare in this album. The concept of capturing the collective suffering of prejudice through the comics of a duck people is strong. Especially because they get a laugh or two out of you on initial listens. .. It is its finely fashioned instrumentation, reminiscent of an Andean ballad folk song, which is its saving grace. After making such observations, I wonder if maybe Megapuss would have benefited from scraping the ‘funny.’
I commend Megapuss for its bravery; their mission to create funny yet inspiring folk-rock is no easy task. In fact, their efforts should not be so quickly bashed for they do something bold: they do not take themselves too seriously. If there is a flaw in our current musical culture it is that most musicians do. Sure, Surfing is a flawed undertaking… The album, although an endeavor in instilling the sense of summertime and enjoyment in its listeners, ends with four very somber tracks. “Older Lives” and “Another Mother” are solid works. Bogar Alonso/staythirstymedia.com 1/5