Out Here

Mazinga Phaser
Dissatisfied Customers of Hallucination

(Idol Records)

Since Mazinga Phaser is almost invisible these days -- no, I can't remember the last time the band played, either -- you couldn't blame anyone for thinking it no longer existed. Meaning: I thought the group broke up around a year ago, so I was more than a little surprised to find a new album by Mazinga Phaser in my mailbox. After all, listless.com, the Web site that serves as a clearing house for information about "underground [bands] from Denton and neighboring metropoli," has Mazinga Phaser listed as "dead," along with Bedhead and Comet and others that actually are. Sure, there's a question mark after the name, but still. Now, the question mark should be removed, because Dissatisfied Customers of Hallucination proves that Mazinga Phaser is dead.

While the name remains the same, this Mazinga Phaser is a different band; the group that recorded 1996's Cruising in the Neon Glories of the New American Night and 1997's Abandinallhope doesn't really exist anymore. The lineup hasn't changed much (guitarist Wanz Dover split to start The Falcon Project, but he appeared on last year's Counting Breaths EP, and shows up on "Blue Sparkle Barchetta" here), but its sound has. That's not a bad thing. Mazinga Phaser Mark II is much catchier than its previous incarnation, although it's still partial to experimentation. For example, "Apocalypso" lives up to its name, all eerie electronic chants and steel drum clatter. Likewise, producer Dave Willingham and Sub Oslo's John Knuckles' mix of "Counting Breaths" doesn't have much to count, only Karl Poetschke's faint trumpet and what sounds like outtakes from The Abyss, deep-sea pings and pongs. Yet unlike earlier, less-successful efforts, when the group goes out on a limb on Dissatisfied Customers of Hallucination, it doesn't completely let go of the trunk.

That this is the most accessible effort from Mazinga Phaser is not surprising, since the band was headed in this direction even before Dover left the fold. Everyone involved would agree that the Vas Deferens Organization-produced Cruising in the Neon Glories of the New American Night went too far out, losing the song in favor of the sound. Abandinallhope was able to find more of a middle ground, and Dissatisfied sets up camp there, rarely straying. The best evidence is the muscular "Alpha Jerk," probably the most straight-ahead song the band has ever recorded, even with its heavy doses of keyboard skronk. All the instruments melt together into one sound, providing solid footing for Jessica Nelson's airy vocals. It's a beautiful song on a surprisingly melodic album. It proves that even though the band has started coloring within the lines, the picture is just as striking.

Zac Crain

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