Popcorn Fish Guinea Pig
While Alex I Am Nothing was an intimate and personal narrative from North Carolina’s Museum Mouth, there was just a bit of a lack of polish in the sound. Not that it was holding the record back, because it allowed for the trio to produce a raw and distinct garage sound, but I wondered what would happen if the sound was a bit more polished in its delivery. It is like when building a desk; the wood has a bit of splinters riding the edges and one quick sanding job will smooth it out. It is still homemade and functioning on the same framework, but now it’s safe to touch and begin utilizing for a great purpose.
And to be honest, Museum Mouth have always been a unique splinter in the industry. They rode their entire career on being honest about their path and their identity. With their debut from 2014, Alex I Am Nothing‘s conceptual mark of wanting someone you could not have was a flash of genius mediated by Karl Kuehn’s bitter honesty, paving a small path for the LGBTQA niche in the industry — which was not as vibrant as it is now becoming. Regardless, after a year of signings and writing, Museum Mouth’s charm is repurposed and focused through Popcorn Fish Guinea Pig, and it is just as special and full of purpose as anyone would have imagined it to be.
I was thrown off by the way the record opened. Having been one of the esoteric followers of Alex I Am Nothing I expected more of a jolt this time around. Instead, “Bugeyed” is a soft and vulnerable slow burner that details the struggle of finding exactly who you are, with the touching reminder that everyone will have people not fond of them, “everyone is no one to someone else.” It is Kuehn being self aware of his small carve he has made in the industry, continuing into “Incubus Tattoo” with more questioning on if he is still true to himself. While struggling with that he realizes that if people don’t want to accept or view him in the proper way than it might be better to be acquaintances.
Sonically, Popcorn Fish Guinea Pig is one fiery piece of art after another. All 11 songs sound gorgeous, with fuzzy distortion tones making the chord progressions pop (minus the two acoustic tracks). The drums don’t sound hollowed out like they would on the previous LP, instead providing the extra punch in Kuehn’s delivery that was always there. The bass’ clean bellows hold the sound together and give a bit of a lower end to guitars power. The song writing structures play out like pop songs, structured to feel upbeat and charismatic. “Failure’s Hall Of Fame” is a lighthearted tune with a bouncy vocal melody that is easy to be ingrained in your mind and singing all day. “I Scream At You When You’re Not In The Room” is the gazey counterpart of the record, pulsing with a droning chorus and a trance like vocal offering from Kuehn. “Lacquer” is dynamically the strongest song on the LP, possessing a heavy guitar overload and Kuehn’s voice breaking into screams behind it. The song grows to possess a larger than life riff in the final bridge, illustrating how out there and free Museum Mouth can be.
With as much ambition show on Popcorn Fish Guinea Pig (I mean just say that title over and over), it is easy to see why Museum Mouth have been such a charitable name to the music community. With every song having its own character, it is fun to dissect why Museum Mouth possess such an importance to the scene. Full of harmonious and incredible melodies, this record is a fun spin from beginning to end. From the crooning lows (“Roadkill”) to the soaring highs (“Riff From My Head”), Popcorn Fish Guinea Pig is one of the most distinct records to be released this year. (Sean Gonzalez)