You can listen to all five Boy Eats Drum Machine albums online, because that is not what Jon Ragel is selling. His newest, 20 Beats, is a greater number of just that: beats, analog and glitchy beats with synthesizers and smooth jazz fills, but beats. It's like Girl Talk without the samples. You wouldn't want to listen to it around the house, which is why Ragel puts his whole catalogue on the internet for free. He wants to lure you into coming to see him live.
Live, Ragel plays Boy Eats Drum Machine songs alone. He sings the vocals. He plays auxiliary percussion and saxophone. He pieces together the beats with turntables and a loop station, scratching them out and recapturing them before darting over to the snare drum and coming back to chop them up. It's a real show, and as with any one-man band, half the enjoyment is watching him run his machinery in a panic, like a very funky Charlie Chaplin.
The songs rock the way a drum circle rocks. They are displays of rhythmic force, and like the stage show that accompanies them they impress more than move. Fortunately, Jon Ragel is moving enough for everybody.
Boy Eats Drum Machine plays the Palace Thursday, Nov. 3, at 9 PM with the Magpies and Vera. $5.