New Real People

(Demonstration) (Leppotone)

New Real People Frank Zappa prog freakery
When rock fans start ranting about Michigan rock, they're always talking up the Motor City. But since the mid-'80s, Southwest Michigan has maintained a cultish, insular indie scene that has spawned five midwest legends: the Sinatras, the Sleestacks, Twister, Goldstar, and Fortune & Maltese & Phabulous Pallbearers.

New Real People -- singer-keyboardist Karl Knack, singer-guitarist Nathan McLaughlin, and drummer Scott Stevens -- is the mongrel offspring of these incestuous rockers. More important, the trio has inherited their best traits -- but with a sweet twist. Since these three über-skilled musicians have been jamming together in one form or another for nearly 20 years, they've decided to make NRP a purely improvisational outfit.

Yet none of (Demonstration)'s 13 tracks possesses a single jazz lick. In fact, the disc boasts a kaleidoscopic salad of American pop performed with radiant mania. There's gnarled new wave, ska punk, screaming garage, and proggy shenanigans.

As with the avant-rock weirdness of Captain Beefheart and Frank Zappa, even the seemingly normal tunes -- say, the tender gospel pop of "Jesus's Mother" -- reveal an arty and wonderfully cracked conceptualism after a handful of spins. And if they don't for you, no worries. New Real People still rock harder than most of the stuff coming out of Detroit.

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