The music on the new album The Crybrator by The Falbonauts is not for everybody — the band members themselves would probably agree with that statement.
But the album is worth checking out for those looking for an adventurous array of moods and sounds heard on strange tunes that somehow trickle their way into likeability. More broadly, The Falbonauts are among an impressive contingent of area bands — groups that include The Bashful Youngens and Neoga Blacksmith, just to name a few — that are churning out noteworthy music within the increasingly blended musical genres of alt-country-rock-Americana.
The instruments heard on The Crybrator — organs, vox, bass, drums (played by Brian Reedy of Lonely Trailer), and an electric baritone guitar — were recorded in three live sessions. According to singer and main songwriter, Walter Falbo, the music was then shelved for one year prior to release to “let the rice simmer.” The strategy worked, as much of the music on the album has a breezy, summery-day type of feel — unhurried and refreshingly natural.
Falbo has a pleasantly droning voice that sounds half Lou Reed, half Jeff Tweedy. What further makes The Falbonauts interesting is the slew of musical curveballs they throw into songs that are sleepy by nature but deceptively diverse. On the opening track “Ruby’s Knife,” a lyrically abstract song about world peace, there’s a rather out-of-tune, out-of-nowhere horn type of sound that kicks in, forcing listeners to wake up and take notice. It’s a sign of things to come.
A pensive “Mad Dawg” Wenzlo-Falbo
Further into the album, “A Darker Shade of Lipstick” features mesmerizing, atmospheric guitar work by “Mad Dawg” Wenzlo-Falbo (that’s how his name is listed on Bandcamp) and an overly loud vocal portion that will probably annoy some people. But it’s an endearing, cool song.
The Crybrator contains three solid cover tunes: One sounds like it was proudly created in the heart of some desert out west ( “Optimistic” by Skeeter Davis); one has a modern, surprisingly danceable vibe (“I Have Known Love” by Silver Apples); and one sounds a bit like the work of Syd Barrett (“Arnold is a Simple Man” by Bill Fay).
The real treats take place as the album winds down. “Fat Old Molly,” according to Falbo, is a song that conveys “a terrifying, sleep-paralysis-induced realization that not only are you actually Bo Diddley, but you have also overdosed on barbiturates and the Viagra is wearing off.” Equally amusing is that the song’s main melody sounds like the children’s ditty “She’ll Be Comin’ ‘Round the Mountain.”
With its robust, “Yellow Submarine”-like chorus and instant catchiness, “From Hell” is arguably the best song on The Crybrator. The band should tap into this tuneful, amped-up sound more often on future recordings — it’s a blast to listen to. Closing song “Betty Says” has a 1990s-sounding soft-loud guitar dynamic and head-scratching lyrics about what must be a drunken, dysfunctional relationship.
All in all, The Falbonauts don’t spoon feed their music to the world, and they play what they want. The beautiful mess that it is, The Crybrator possesses a ruggedly charming aura that works.
Band photo by Walter Alspaugh.