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The Blitzoids - Stealing from Helpless Children / Look Up

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Artist: The Blitzoids

Album: Stealing from Helpless Children / Look Up

Label: Ad Hoc

Review date: Mar. 20, 2007

The De Chiara brothers, otherwise known as the Blitzoids, are finally getting some well deserved play and press in the wake of this fine reissue of the Chicago group’s 1987 and 1990 albums. As is often cited, the Residents are certainly models for this duo’s minimalist song structures, and the percussion on Stealing from Helpless Children is very reminiscent of early Residents and of the less-polished output from the Los Angeles Free Music Society in general. Think of the Blorp Esset album’s weirder moments, and you’re on the right track. However, latterday Residential social awareness also comes to the fore, notably in the politically charged lyrics of “No Time.” It’s a late-’80s, world-annihilation piece set to a grotesque waltz, a chilly bit of global theater. The Residents would approve.

However, Renaldo and the Loaf form an equal part of the Blitzoids’ sonic brew, another band whose originality has been underappreciated. Like Renaldo, the Blitzoids reach deep into the innovations of the Western European avant-garde cannon, engaging in jump-cuts, strange jazz-inflected harmonies and all manners of sound manipulation, so that 20 years after the fact, their debut sounds like no one but them.

Look Up is definitely an improvement sound-wise, as layers of orchestration have been added to many of the tracks. “13 Dog 23 Night” combines pastoral flute with a stripped-down, working-song back-beat of stalwart drums and guitar only to dissolve, temporarily, into a post-apocalyptic mélange of voices and detached riffage. The title track follows suit, spiraling toward nightmare, armed with blood-curdling screams.

I have painted a somber picture of this duo, but humor pervades much of the bonus material. It’s all still a bit dark though, as with the bizarrely cluttered version of “The Witchdoctor,” seemingly a Residents knockoff, complete with over-the-top vocal harmonizer in all registers. It straddles the line between parody and homage, and that’s part of the fun. Is it too much to hope that the Blitzoids might have a record or two left inside them? Either way, many thanks to Ad Hoc for another great slice of history.

By Marc Medwin

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