Here’s an album one can judge by its cover ~ even if one cannot predict the sound, one can predict the tone. Curtis Hasselbring (Curha) is having a (literal) blast, as the trombone is a major part of his timbre, but 3 (also known as III) jumps across styles in an endearing fashion, folding in elements of UFO pop, circus music and everything in between. Some of the guests are very small, as one can see on the cover, and one has forks for hands, but it doesn’t get in the way of an exuberant set. If anything, Curha is better off for being a mutant surrounded by mini-mutants.
The amusement extends to the titles as well. Lead single “Bee Alley” offers a pun via homonym, while “Seeing Eye Dog” is more a dyslexic pun and “Badly Supervised Seance” is simply a great title, with an execution to match. And if one isn’t yet convinced, the big budget video for the first third of “Bee Alley” (unfortunately they ran out of money after the first month of filming) should convince any holdouts that 3 is just a whole lot of fun.
Every song is a potential hit; one can imagine a physical release of half a dozen 45s, with a bonus track on the last record. Each has its own distinct personality, but all are upbeat, if not in tempo then in tone. There’s a little library music here, some luau vibes, a touch of ska, a dollop of dub, a snippet of surf, and a generous amount of synth. Curha’s vertically challenged guests play a tiny violin, sax, bass clarinet and guitar, and make bee noises.
Which track is the best? The competition is fierce. “Seeing Eye Dog” is a great opener, the spoken word samples reminiscent of 50s films and abduction videos. One can imagine the kids bopping to “Bee Alley.” Did you know that Curha once played with Deborah Harry? We had no other place to put that sentence, so we put it here. “Grilla’ Beach Mountain” is a great summer song, and summer is Not! Yet! Over!, so we appreciate the whistles, the handclaps, the burgers and the bass. The early beats of “Badly Supervised Seance” are reminiscent of “All She Wants to Do Is Dance,” and we like the ice cubes and faux theremin. The set’s finest moment is the TV intro of “Rode On An Airplane Last Night,” revisited at the end. As for the best track, it’s too hard to choose; spin this at your next barbecue or seance, and let the guests decide. (Richard Allen)