Master of Reality era Black Sabbath meets Mr. Bungle. Full stop.
Well, we can’t really end it there, so let’s go on. This Los Angeles quartet has been around for over a decade, though bon•ho•mie is just their third album and follows its predecessor after a seven-year pause. The lineup is that of a standard 70’s rock quartet – guitar / bass / keys / drums – though the approach here is not strictly retro. Sure, there is more than a little heady, bluesy riffing from guitarist Jeremy McLean that would make Tony Iommi nod in approval. But then you also have a John Zorn / Mike Patton avant-rock influence as well, with disjointed song structures, thrash-metal drives, and demented circus music. Not to mention a few psychedelic meanderings.
While all four members of the group are credited with vocals, nine of the album’s ten tracks are instrumental. Only on the finale, She Wasn’t, She Isn’t is there any singing, though with fairly standard trappings. But at that point, Action Friend has charmed you with how well they can paint outside the lines, that this more conventional approach is a pleasant diversion.
A standout track is the seven-minute Sewer Abuse, which features dense atmospherics, driving hard rock rhythms, cosmic synths, and a modicum of free improv. Another winner is LMNOP Whole, which varies between heavy riffing, three-chord acoustic guitar interludes, and motifs that fit in with those of Mr. Bungle’s California.
bon•ho•mie is a fun album that combines a number of familiar and experimental styles into an utterly enjoyable 40 minutes. On it, Action Friend proves that you don’t have to be outside all the time to innovate. Strong recommendation for avant-rock fans.