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coverpic flag Norway - Full Moon 115 - 02/13/06

Ping
The Castle Massacre
Normal Records

Remember Monty Python's final movie The Meaning Of Life? There is a scene at the start where a lady is trying to give birth to her child. Several doctors are messing around and seem a lot more concerned about the latest technology at the hospital than the poor soon-to-be mother. They are particularly concerned about the machine that goes 'Ping'! I think Rage Against The Machine That Goes Ping might be a splendid band name. Listening to The Castle Massacre, one might suspect the members of Ping to have thought so, too, and then shortened the name afterwards. At least parts of the album sounds as hysterical as several scenes in the film. The music of Frank Zappa with and without the Mothers of Invention seems to be the basis for Ping. Not a bad basis, not at all! It demands loads of instrumental skills, fantasy and playfulness. A few times, particularly "The Dog", they're tempted into pure Zappa pastiche. Otherwise they mix a lot of elements from different kinds of music, more in the spirit of Zappa than actually copying. The album is a happy blend of pop, heavy, jazz rock, progressive rock, electronica, musical, American 1940s popular music etc. etc. Preferably the lot squeezed into one song. Well, not quite. To the satisfaction of an oldie like me, I even hear bits of King Crimson at the most melodic of the early 1970s and late 1990s eras. "Anyway But Now" and "My New Friend" are prime examples of Ping at their very best, with a modest mixture of only three of four musical styles. The only troublesome element to me is the occasional strained and funny vocals, much in the Zappa vein...

The young Norwegian quintet, now based in Oslo, masters loads of instruments including xylophone or vibes, lots of guitars - some of the razor blade kind and some not, tons of keyboards with and without fart noises... The inclusion of guest Bendik Bjørnstad Foss's viola was a clever move. He adds at least one dimension to a couple of the songs, the title track in particular. The lyrics reflect the music, of course. Sometimes hysterical or funny ('There's a shark in my pool. Take a bath, pretty cool.'), sometimes clever ('A life without sin is like tonic without gin'), even serious ('How does it feel, to break up and go, when your life is a travel, and death is your soul?').

At the end of Monty Python's film The Meaning Of Life the secret of the title is revealed. 'It's nothing very special. Try to be nice to people, avoid eating fat, read a good book every now and again, get some walking in and try and live together in peace and harmony with people of all creeds and nations.' Well, that was more than 20 years ago. Today it seems appropriate to add '... people of all creeds, nations and religions'. We should also add 'Listen to a good album now and again'. In the latter respect The Castle Massacre will give more meaning to life. For the vinyl aficionados out there life will be even more meaningful at the news that the album is available both on CD and LP. And with a cover that includes a full moon they simply can't fail here at Luna Kafé. Check out Ping's home page for further information.

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