Kick Thine Ass... 

By Hook or by Crook We Will

Consider this: In 1966 Napoleon XIV had a big hit with "They're Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!" but he wasn't able to copyright his rant as a song because it contained no musical notes. The copyright office listed it as a lecture. Now they call it a "novelty song." Did Frank Zappa write "novelty songs?" How weird is it to listen to opera on the radio? Answer: About as weird as this local album, and sometimes as satisfying.

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By Hook or by Crook We Will is the kind of collection you'll want to treat like a sit-down, listen-all-the-way-through event. Missoula resident Brian Thomas, the sole artist in Kick Thine Ass Joseph and the Bleeding Thumb Brigade, presents a theme I haven't fully deciphered. It involves alienation, possibly aliens, cowboys and real or metaphorical zombies. I'm not sure whether McGruff the Crime Dog is involved, but he appears in the lovely album art.

By Hook is packed with voices and "characters," but the best and most satisfying interactions are between instruments (including a squeaky chew toy as percussion) and musical styles (a hardcore techno beat intrudes upon country slide guitar; spooky industrial is followed by old-timey swing.) In the end we're treated to minimalist bliss on "The Golden Apples of the Sun." A happy ending? I can't yet hazard an answer.

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