Is there something wrong with Alex Calder? I mean, I listen to his albums and I really quite enjoy him. Weird, off-kilter pop music seems to be his thing. Songs that are catchy, yet there’s always something in there that seems kind of off. You’re waiting for the moment when this affable guy is going to snap and strangle you, chop you up, and mail pieces of you across Canadian provinces.
Maybe it’s just that I’m not Canadian and I don’t quite get that Canadian humor. Is he just putting me on? I mean the guy retires from music every couple weeks and starts new endeavors. Chef, actor, lizard man, etc…then he ends up putting out a new album and everything is back to kosher. His videos are really strange as well. They’re funny, but strange. He was in a band with Mac Demarco, so that should explain a lot regarding his behavior.
Still, I’m pretty good at figuring out when someone is trying to pull one over on me. I get the performance art stuff. I loved Andy Kauffman, and a lot of times I get the feeling Calder is just performing some strange performance art piece when he’s in front of a camera. He even did one of those Vincent Moon/Blogotheque-like videos where he was performing his song “Strange Dreams” on acoustic guitar in a laundromat. You couldn’t hear him playing it as there was so much noise in the laundromat: conversations, loud mechanical noises, chewing. It was really pretty funny, which makes me think Calder just likes to screw with people, including his fans.
When it comes to his music he seems pretty legit. Both his Time EP and full-length Strange Dreams are pretty great. Woozy, stoned, quirky pop songs that have an element of menace hanging over them. It was announced by his record label Captured Tracks that they were releasing his Mold Boy recordings on a full-length LP as a Record Store Day exclusive. There wasn’t a whole lot I was excited about on RSD this year, but this was one of them I was intrigued by. Of course, no one had this album on RSD. At least none of the shops I visited. Was this yet another Calder prank? Had I been fooled again by this Canadian prankster?
Well a couple weeks after RSD Captured Tracks had the Mold Boy LP on sale at their site so I ordered it. After a little confusion on the shipping date it arrived last Saturday and I listened to it pretty much all weekend. There’s something lighter about the Mold Boy songs than with Calder’s other songs. Maybe a little folksier? Listening I imagine Deerhunter doing Velvet Underground covers on Quaaludes. Sonically it feels like it was recorded in an oversized garbage can with waterlogged microphones. Songs range from drunken pop bliss(“Rewind My Mind”, “Boil”, and “Carlito”) to stranger sounds(“Disease Freak”, “Take A Dip”, and “Microscopic”). There’s still that uneasiness that comes with the Alex Calder territory. One minute everything feels all right and cool, but then the next moment the room darkens a bit and the laughter becomes rather uncomfortable.
So why do I like the guy if he’s sorta weird and creepy? I don’t know, really. He hooked me back in 2013 with his song “Suki and Me” on his Time EP and I haven’t been able to shake him since. I think it’s the idea that the guy is completely normal -albeit maybe stoned and drunk a lot of the time- and that he just likes to keep people guessing.
With songs like “Moving Slow” and “Carlito” I supposed he’ll continue to keep me hooked, whether he’s f*****g with me or not. I’ll keep watching his freaky Rock ‘N Roll Andy Kauffman show until he dies in a blaze of irony, or until he stops lighting his farts. Whichever comes first.