"Jamba Juice, Baja Fresh," says Zack Claxon of Austin-based duo Beth Israel on "Family," introducing the song like a bored narrator cruising down a franchised stretch of I-35. The tune, one of the stranger numbers on the Dental Denial LP, creeps into a verse repeating a cold, latrophobic line: "I don't need medicine, it won't make up the rent."
The debut LP of Zack Claxon and Ramsey Eddins, Beth Israel's Dental Denial lives in this state of minimum wage, bored between shifts at the strip mall. Dark, funny and 27 minutes short, it's like a visit to the corner store through the lens of a kaleidoscope stuck on the 'bad trip' filter.
On "Tommy Boy," Beth Israel tries a found art approach, eerily twisting the dialogue of the '95 Chris Farley vehicle. When the words come from Farley, they're over-the-top, bumbling genius. From Beth Israel, they're anxious, self-defeating and with rent looming next week. "Chocolate in the dash, that should be good for the resale value," sings Eddins, over a knocking bass drum and clanging bell shots on the drum machine.
More than any of the language, Dental Denial's sound is defined by tight purse strings and practicality. The drum machine that grounds the record isn't a statement in Big Black font—it just makes sense to use. "We figured it out. It's easy. We can do it at our house, even though we live in an apartment," says Eddins. "At the same time, I like the way it sounds."
The drum machine is perhaps the most peculiar and successfully employed tool on the record. Beth Israel places the device in the uncanny valley, in the goosebump zone between electronic and analog music. Almost, but not quite human, the drum machine adds a nauseous feeling to "Tommy Boy" and an android energy to the album's best track, "Seventh Inning Strays."
In the live set, Beth Israel added a drummer to animate Dental Denial, its songs coming to life like the zombie hands stitched into the cover. "It reached a point where we could only get so much energy out of me and Zach and the drum machine," says Eddins. "It just hits way harder, way heavier, way better than we could have been before."
Beth Israel feat. Mannequin Pussy, Los Sheilaquiles, DJ HEAVYFLOW
$3, 8pm Tue, Nov 4, Café Rev, 531 El Paso, (210) 385-1820