Mr. McNerty is one of Eric Rohm’s collaborators in The Noble Octopus, and like his label mate on the enigmatically named Pelletier Comes Alive! label, McNerty is not a shouter. This CD is anchored in the acoustic folk songwriting tradition, but also contains generous helpings of sonic experimentation. Some stuff he does that’s “wrong” by any normal standards of recording, like the extreme panning in “Broken Now,” which puts the vocals and organ drones in one ear and drums in the other. “Winter Came” starts out with crackly low-fi crunching noises mixed with amplifier hum and obscure lyrics about a peach tree, which then segues into an instrumental outro of echoing guitars.
And then “October 25th” starts, with hocketing guitar parts picking out an evocative chord sequence, underlined with an ominous droning hum. It’s actually more conventionally song-like than “Winter Came” but has no vocals at all. “Contigo Lo Siento” is centered around a sparse skeleton of classical guitar, before being joined by glockenspiel. It’s more like the soundtrack work of Angelo Badalamenti (the composer for “Twin Peaks”), evoking an atmosphere of vague dread. “She’s Really Terrified” takes off in a different direction, with almost conventional finger-picking, before oddly pitched multitracked vocal and buzzy synth sounds break down into chaos.
Joe McNertney is fearless when it comes to indulging his wackiest impulses. It’s mostly compelling, even with the occasional low-fi freakout or musical non-sequitir. If you’re expecting straightforward pop music, you’re definitely in the wrong place, and probably inching nervously for the exit, but sometimes in life you have to dive in and embrace the what-the-fuck-ness of work like this. McNertney might lose you sometimes, but it’s worth trying to make the leaps of dream logic with him. He’s never boring, and usually includes some appealing music in with the jumble sale of odd noises he’s assembled.