So the fact that the Mink Lungs have figured out a way to sprinkle their hallucinogenic pop madness across the country by bringing 2,000 red harvester ants along for the ride should tell you two things: 1) The Mink Lungs are weird as hell; and 2) These guys know their ants.
"Well, red harvester ants are the only kind you can really use," explains singer/guitarist/ant handler Gian Carlo Feleppa. "They can't crawl up the sides of plastic objects, which means they all basically stay in the same place so it looks a lot cooler when we're projecting them all over our faces."
Yep, that's right. The only band currently using live ants -- live stinging ants, no less! -- during their concerts, the Mink Lungs unleash the warped brilliance of their new album, I'll Take It, June 30 at the Earl. Expect mind-altering rock, sing-along manifestos and tiny little ants exploding like popcorn kernels under the projection lamp -- PETA be damned. "They're normally sold as feed," Feleppa says. "So at least they're getting to travel and live the life of celebrity ants before they die."
While the Mink Lungs -- Feleppa, his half-brother Tim Feleppa, Jennifer "Miss Frosty" Hoopes and Tom Galbraith -- will never be confused with the pretty, vacant glitteratti of New York's current rock revival (bad cheekbones, day jobs, actual songs, sadly), they've carved their names into the city's chest with their notorious, mayhem-fueled live shows. Like Neo if he'd taken a hit of acid instead of the red pill.
At an early gig, they constructed jumpsuits with blinking Christmas lights sewn inside. Toward the end of the show, Gian Carlo took on a strange glow, somewhere between ecstatic and petrified -- turns out he was in the early stages of electrocution. Now the show has evolved to include hula-hoops, farm animals, psychedelic lightning bolts, exoskeletal fireworks and sometimes even a special appearance from "Jimmy Swaggart," a Gian Carlo character who wears a choral robe and preaches the demon powers of rock 'n' roll while hoisting cow hearts or bloody doll bodies above his head.
The fact that their new album may just be the best piece of left-field NYC rock since the Talking Head's Remain in Light only proves that the Mink Lungs' substance is catching up with their curious style. While their Arena Rock Recording Co. debut, The Better Button, was a cuddly, but sometimes ragged, tangle of duct-taped home recordings, the cohesive production on I'll Take It enhances the off-kilter vibe, saws off loose ends and still allows each of the Mink's four songwriters to chew the scenery.
As for the songs, they're predictably all over the map. "I'll Take It" is a Technicolor game of Twister where sex, drugs, love and death oil-wrestle for supremacy while folk-rock, psychedelic pop and bagpipes blare in the background. And then, of course, there are the ditties about UFOs. "When I'm having trouble writing a song," explains principal alien scribe Tom Feleppa, "I just take drugs or start flipping through old sci-fi novels looking for inspiration." The result is not one, but count 'em, three songs about outer space. And don't even try dissecting "Gorilla," a hummable blast of Pixies feedback equating a fling with a girlfriend to a primate in the throes of ecstasy.
But as bizarre as some of the songs can be, the Lungs' weirdness never overshadows the ability of their music to lodge in your skull or possess your feet to dance. "We're not trying to be weird," says Gian Carlo. "This album made enough logistical sense to us -- but I guess it is kind of flattering that somebody thinks we're weird." There's a silence, then Tim pipes up: "But we are weird, man."
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