William Henry Faulker-Thompson
A song came to me in a dream last night. It sounded like good, cheap whiskey and fever dreams; like Ritchie Valens, back from the dead and high as a kite, grabbing the American music scene by the collar and grinning furiously. It was only the next morning, when I found a copy of Dr. Martino’s Big Day EP taped to my monitor, that I realized the song was “Hollywood Coprophagia,” track one of a truly weird and brilliant creation. The EP plays out like the best drunken night out you’ve ever had: initial excitement, quiet reflection, incoherent babbling all mingling together at once to create a rare and perfect storm.
The whole affair starts with “Hollywood Coprophagia,” a song that doesn’t bother with introductions. It kicks your door in, drinks the good wine, and puts it feet on your table before you have time to react. “Hollywood” is the most reminiscent of Martino’s earlier work: raw surf rock, punchy grooves, and lyrics that have to be sung with a shit-eating grin. This is what the soundtrack to Miami Vice ought to have been, and it’ll stay with you for the rest of the album.
“Some Kind of Kneelin’” feels like a ‘50s sugary-sweet love song done Dr. Martino-style. Guitars that twang like a Mississippi drawl marry uberpoppy harmonies and are met with lyrics like “Put your hands in your pockets and just keep on fuckin’ around.” Led by bassist Amy Shaw, the vocal delivery comes off like the best of Pixies’ Kim Deal with plenty of pop-weirdness. It’s the kind of foot-tapping, eyebrow-raising thing you expect from talented lunatics.
At this point, the album assumes you’re along for the ride and turns the strange all the way up. “2024“ is a hard acoustic space-western that either tells the story of a lonely star-farer or Richard Nixon’s rise to the presidency, depending on how much you’ve been drinking. It’s short but catchy enough that you want to listen to it on repeat long after you stop singing along. “Shell Rot” opens with great hammering metal guitars that knock on your skull like tax collectors, then swings into light, acoustic surf-groove. The song see-saws back and forth while the chorus of “The jolly little turtles/ Laugh and sing and dance and play” twists right along. It’s the best kind of what-the-hell-is-happening songwriting that Martino does so well; you’ve long since stopped scratching your head and just smile along with it. The album closes out with “Dag,” a song that begs for end-credits and a protagonist driving off into the sunset. It’s everything you’ve just heard done different, pretty, and damn near perfect.
Dr. Martino set the bar high. Big Day is what you listen to while having a purpose; it’s what you listen to when you want to make the mundane beautiful and twisted.. Three brilliant, talented, and insane musicians want to take you along for your Big Day, so take the ride. You’ll love every second.