With the July release of their fourth and final full-length record, Phased Out, Our Holy Orgasmic Cosmic Rays have completed one of the more bewildering yet oddly delightful album cycles in recent local memory. May God have mercy on our souls. And also theirs. (But mostly ours.)
Like all good schemes for galactic domination, the Plattsburgh, N.Y.-based anti-supergroup's nefarious plot occurred in distinct phases. Phase One, the band's 2014 debut, was a deranged and punky treatise loaded with lo-fi experimental snarl and plenty of dick jokes. Phase Two and Phase Three followed in quick succession in 2015 and found the band somewhat toning down its abrasive approach in an appeal to the masses — but definitely not toning down the dick jokes.
Then, also like all good plans for conquering the universe, the Cosmic Rays went dormant, lulling the citizenry into a false sense of serenity. But any fan of sci-fi or horror had to know they'd be back, more fearsome (and juvenile) than ever.
Indeed, Phased Out encapsulates everything that has made the band so fascinating, entertaining and terrifying over the past half decade or so. From multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Christopher "Tex Rex" Ribzbee's bizzarro, nonsensical lyrical rants (and dick jokes) to the queer and cacophonous soundscapes conjured by bandmates Sean-Jean GodRow, Will "Master Commander" Shafthills and Chris Shacktown USA, the album crackles with unhinged energy and oddball humor.
Take the album opener. The 83-second "Air Guitar Theme" is played almost entirely, and quite poorly, on accordion and laced with fart noises.
"Beneath the Shoe" follows. Imagine a slow-jammy power ballad if played by a Weezer tribute band composed of horny middle schoolers. Ribzbee (real name Christopher Stott-Rigsbee) sings with a tremulous tone that less evokes a pubescent Rivers Cuomo than a cartoonish approximation of Conor Oberst at his most manically warbling.
None of that is meant derisively, BTW. Phased Out, like the rest of the Cosmic Rays canon, is colored by a churlish and sophomoric sensibility that owes a debt to both the sci-fi writer Douglas Adams and the sleaziest cartoons of R. Crumb — or maybe the Garbage Pail Kids. In fact, the record's penultimate track is a nod to Adams' cult classic novel The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy titled "So Long and Thanks for All the Phases."
It can't be said that Our Holy Orgasmic Cosmic Rays have ever remotely approached the greatness of those influences or those of their inscrutable musical inspirations — Dr. Demento and ... the fuck if I know.
But all that is rather beside the point. The point is ... well, the fuck if I know that, either. So I suppose we'll go out on this: So long and thanks for all the phases, Cosmic Rays. For anyone bold enough to tag along, it's been quite the ride.
Phased Out is available at ourholyorgasmiccosmicrays.bandcamp.com.