May 12, 2008

Norah Jones Rocks. Seriously.

If by chance you work for a mass retail conglomerate that contains an obligatory music department, please refrain from shooting customers dumbfounded stares when they ask where you’ve stashed the eponymous debut album by El Madmo.

By the time the album hits stores on May 20, those in the know will already understand that El Madmo – “El” on bass and vocals, “Maddie” on electric guitar and vocals, and “Mo” on drums and vocals – is a wacky-punk-rock band that includes, most notably, Norah Jones.

Under the guise of Maddie, Jones sheds her chanteuse aura to slip into something more uninhibited, rough-edged, and refreshingly (and often comically) raunchy. “In my fantasy, you and me, we screw like bunnies,” she coos in “Fantasy Guy,” one girl’s tale of pining for a man whose wife poses an annoying impediment. On “GGW” – the acronym for Girls Gone Wild – she’s endured enough pick-up lines for one night, warning her drunken suitor, “Don’t you puke on my dress!”

El Madmo sets such frank sentiments to music that is at times shamelessly basic, rhythmically heavy, and downright absurd. What the album lacks in cohesion, though, it makes up for with beguiling songs crammed with their own idiosyncrasies and acerbic charms. From the simmering blues stomp of “Head In A Vise” to the feisty kick of “Carlo!” – “I stare at his ass/He smokes the good grass” – to the naughty innuendo pulsing through “I Like It Low,” the songs are like characters in an adorably deranged and bawdy ensemble stage show.

While the Norah Jones association will no doubt attract curiosity (and perhaps bewilderment), it’s El Madmo’s music that will ultimately assure continued listening. Once you get past the inevitable, initial reaction – “Did she just say that?” – you’ll accept and enjoy this album for what it is: a bizarre little batch of rock and roll that’ll have you grinning and grooving from start to finish.