When – The Lobster Boys

When
The Lobster Boys

I hope that you have played The New Tetris for Nintendo 64. If you have, then you will remember the addictive Eastern songs from that addictive game (not from the original Tetris – those songs are quite different). The soundtrack from that game is strikingly similar to the music that When plays on their eighth album, The Lobster Boys. But I don’t want to downplay Lars Pedersen of When’s music by comparing it to the music from a video game (albeit a universally respected one). When’s innumerable, and at times unidentifiable, use of instruments have a predominantly Eastern feel. And when I say Eastern, I’m talking the ancient sounds of Arabia. Half the songs are instrumental, sometimes with samples thrown into the mix. But do not dare to be surprised when a less abstract song with real vocals creeps up.
The Lobster Boys opens with “(Theme from) Lobster Boys,” which begins with a sample from “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” before diving into a melody driven by wind instruments and melodica, among many others instruments. “Flower Jam” features what sounds like “water-drumming” and sitar at the forefront with harmonized “oh oh oh”s that bring the song to a close. A most beautiful song composed of harpsichord, acoustic and slide guitar, and pretty much every other instrument and non-instrument is “Sunshine Superhead.” It brings to mind Elf Power both vocally and musically before it ends at a little over two minutes.
Like “Sunshine Superhead,” “Instant Flute” has the actual construct of what one would call a song. But this song’s mood is darker, its key minor. Really the only mildly unpleasant song on The Lobster Boys is the seven-minute “Ruin Yourself,” which has annoying vocal effects and a more depressing Avalanches feel. And I never took to the sample-heavy party sound of the Avalanches. Pedersen sings at a muddy pace “God created drugs / and black-eyed dogs / life is a guessing game / so keep on ruin yourself.” “Ruin Mix” follows, shortening the previous song and making it more drum-heavy and early 90s sample-happy.
“Too Much Hello Goodbye Again?” makes up for the two-song dark patch of The Lobster Boys with its dreaminess and beauty. “Where am I going? / I don’t know” sings Pedersen. Those lyrics sum up this album, as it is full of surprises. The album closes with a 16-minute song called “When a) Buddha b) Allah.” It is one of the more atmospheric of the 12-song bunch that makes up The Lobster Boys. But the song’s lack of structure and its longevity make it difficult to digest.
I was at first doubtful of The Lobster Boys. I thought When would be the host of my first Bore Fest of the new year. But the album is actually quite interesting and makes for an enjoyable, organically different listen.