One of the unintended effects of this, though, is that I’m occasionally contacted by people seeking media coverage. I feel bad when I can’t follow through and help.
Especially when they send free stuff.
That’s what the band Pinocchio Syndrome did, providing a nine-song compact disc, publicity still, press release and biography. Having inadvertently conned the quartet into wasting a bunch of effort and postage, not to mention abusing its hopes and good will, I figured the least I could do was listen to the album and pass on what I thought about it.
In short, I wasn’t even done with the first listen before racing furiously for the press release to find out when the band was playing next. I was shattered to find out I’d missed its performance upstairs at The Middle East by less than a day. Hell. It was even more frustrating to find out that, because I’m starting work next week, I can’t get to the band’s May 18 show at T.T. the Bear’s Place. (On the other hand, Pinocchio Syndrome is scheduled to go on at 11 p.m. This makes it barely plausible that I can catch some of the band’s set, given that things are rarely on schedule at rock clubs, let alone rock clubs in the greater Big Dig area.)
I had this reaction, obviously, because I liked Pinocchio Syndrome’s music. This is not the usual metal crap, indie tedium or, thank god, American Idolatry. Indeed, trying to categorize the band merely reveals the pointlessness of the activity. What can I say? That Pinocchio Syndrome is like Primus meets Fiona Apple meets Joy Division, Metric, the Doors, Radiohead and Massive Attack? And that list wasn’t even in any particular order, so anyone gleaning direction from it is almost certainly going to get lost.
To be honest, Pinocchio Syndrome work from the “Free Heat” album is just this side of headachy, but it drones on (the median length of songs is 4 minutes, 13 seconds) in a way that is more epic than monotonous, and it is easy to imagine a live show leaving listeners dazed, stunned openmouthed. When you finish a Syndrome song, let alone an album, you feel like you’ve been somewhere — and that, while it wasn’t so easy getting there, the journey was as important as the destination.
The music is heavy on guitar but rescued by piano. The former makes it grandiose, the latter ironic. The result is a decadence strangely reminiscent of Brecht and Weill, or Jacques Brel, for that matter, particularly when co-vocalist Renee Dominique Greer calls out theatrically “I love ... the lies” and repeats it four more times. “Keep your secrets and tell your lies,” she sings, and one imagines it being sung from one actor to another, with the pounding drums and frenzied strings rising from a pit. “Your 20/20 vision’s got four eyes.”
The band doesn’t traffic in simple love songs, odes to rock ’n’ roll or even polemics, which would sound silly atop its musical excess. Instead, it tells stories aided by Greer and fellow vocalist Max Goransson singing in everything from sullen mutters to outright screaming to Broadway swing, including in the deliciously dissipated, cuttingly sardonic “It Was a Bad Idea from the Beginning,” in which Greer gives full throat to a rollicking jibe at the self-dramatizing:
They’ll talk about you like you don’t even exist
And maybe you don’t, but the whispers persist
You’ve got your razor and you’ve got your reasons
You’ve justified your alibi that you just can’t please them
The funny thing is that the drama in Pinocchio Syndrome’s music is an easy invitation to this kind of earnest excess, even as the lyrics wink and slam the door in its face. You have to work a bit to get the point, including making it past the pretension in the band’s Web bio (“Pinocchio Syndrome began, with time, as a feeling. Then suddenly it was a thought that couldn’t even be uttered, an unfathomable concept.”) before getting to the deadpan giveaways (“You’re either with us or against us, so don’t fuck around”).
The conceit is even suggested — possibly even on purpose — in the band’s name, which says explicitly that all lies are given away if you know where to look. Is Pinocchio Syndrome a chronic condition? A cure would definitely be worse than the disease.
“Free Heat” can be downloaded, for free, of course, at Psyndrome.com.