I have to wonder if Decomposure (a.k.a. Caleb Mueller) is a fan of the Museum of Endangered Sounds (which, if you’re old enough to remember Windows 95 and cassette tapes, I recommend checking out.) There are sounds snuck into Eating Chicken, his fifth album, that I can only describe as a skipping CD, crackling and scratching from a record, and a melody that sounds like it would have fit perfectly into an old Nintendo game. As you may have guessed from the inclusion of such sounds, this is a pretty experimental album. The tracks range from soft folk songs to electronic to a mash-up of too many sounds. It’s hard to put a genre label on Decomposure; some sites say electronic, others say experimental, iTunes says rock. It’s just about everything all on one album.
The one unifying element of (almost) all the songs is the vocals. The Beach Boys came to mind as gentle layers of vocals wash together. “Oh Brother” and “A Test” sound like they could have been sung by the Beach Boys – if the backing Beach Boys all had Bon Iver’s voice. Because there are so many styles on the one album, there are some tracks without the a capella vocals, like “Safety Scissors” and “Black Snow” have robotic spoken words/rapping over electronic music. The folkier songs pare down the vocals and keep it simple.
As pretty as the softer, electronic-free songs are, some of the lyrics have harsh subject matter. “Waiting,” which sounds like a perfectly sweet title, starts off describing a beaten and bound woman who is about to murdered by a man wearing “a mask of human skin.” Yep, that’s all in the first couple of lines. The “waiting” is “waiting for a death to come.” Mueller goes on to describe a man dying of lung cancer and a squirrel lying on the road. The juxtaposition of the soft, upbeat music with the gruesome lyrics is bizarre, yet it kept me listening. “Breaking Up” is another soft folk song, but it describes going to see an action movie with “awesome graphics” and explosions, then moves into driving in the forest (much more expected subject matter for the sound of the song.) Some of the lyrics are way sweeter than murderers and action movies: “Selsh” seems to be sung to Mueller’s new baby and is pretty darned cute with its piano and sleigh bells. Some of the other songs have lyrics that play on other popular songs, like “you’re so vain, you’d never know this song is about you, you’re not that self-aware” in “Oh Brother,” a message to a not-so-loveable brother.
This album may take a couple of listens to appreciate, but since each track is so different, it really must be taken on a song-by-song basis. I can’t stand “Readymade” nor am I a fan of those robotic raps, but there are some gems like “How It Happened,” “Waiting,” and “Breaking Up,” on the record. The lyrics are unique and interesting, the album is worth a few listens just for them. Decomposure is moving away from his mainly electronic past albums and if these soft folk-ish songs are what he can come up with, I support that move.
MP3: Decomposure “How It Happened”