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Junkman | Nat Res Mo Na Man

Album review by John Powell

Junkman | Nat Res Mo Na Man

While The Junkman’s first two albums were explorations of recycled materials altered and used to make music, Nat Res Mo Na Man is a leap forward into songs as in lyrics, choruses, bridges, etc.- although Junkman AKA Donald Knaack’s own brand of songs. The album title is an abbreviation of “Natural Resources, Mother Nature, and Man”, and continues Junkman’s resounding mission to promote Reducing, Reusing, and Recycling, in no particular order, but all very adamantly. No artist has ever been as direct in expressing his message. This time around, the album features vocal performances, many of which are friends and musicians Junkman’s met around his travels, and none of them are conventional. Take the eleven-year-old that slays “Litterbug” with a youthful but strong impressive voice, for example.

But that’s getting ahead in the album of relatively short songs, (two to four minutes, is all). Junkman promotes digital downloads to save paper, although the packaging, recycled and eco-friendly, is quite fun. The liner notes state, “This is an audio snapshot of planet earth today.” That is to say, major climate change, “stuff”, and packaging. The tunes get away with being short because they’re snapshots, but each hits like eye-opening bullets.

For those unfamiliar with The Junkman, all percussion is made from junk, sometimes hit with a stick, sometimes meddled with and molded to make instruments that resemble everything from xylophones to bass guitars. “Introduction and State of the Earth” is an excellent welcome to how good these sounds come out. Deep, thunderous percussion and Morse code-sounding taps lead into a strange metallic snare clap and speaking vocals, “What ever happened to clean earth and pure air?/The ice is melting/Who smells the coffee?”

This is followed by “Stuff & Things”, a somewhat silly-sounding title, but the message is clear. “We like stuff and things,” a chorus goes over wrenching, creaking, and blipping percussion. The song is increasingly catchy, but it’s such a bizarre atmospheric take on music that this isn’t noticeable until the album’s put away and you kind of want to hear the drill noises in the background again.

A key track is “Packaging”, driven by powerful shakers and up-tempo percussive funk. At high volumes on a sweet stereo, the song is tribal dance ready. Produced by David Kahne (Matisyahu, The Strokes), each instrument, whatever junk it might be, shines through. Not to say Junkman would promote drug use, by any means, but a tripped out dancer might suffer an unsuspecting eargasm.

“Packaging” is followed by “Litterbug”, the album’s first single, with something like timpani, only we know it’s converted oil drums or metal sheets. “Play that can, Junkman,” eleven-year-old Alana says after a haunting chorus. Junkman’s percussive soloing is awesome.

Why not have three killer songs in a row? “One World” involves spoken words. “Every part of lives/where we go/what we buy/affect the climate of our planet.” It’s strange, to be talked to like this. Between verses, though, the chorus, engaging bass, one a of a few featured instruments not made out of junk, is richly beautiful.

The Junkman could easily use his instruments to create conventional songs. That would almost be enough, to hear a pop tune and learn that the drums are made out of plastic, metal, and wood scraps, but this isn’t enough for Knaack. Instead, he redefines a song’s composition, putting the message first, weird but pretty noises second.

That’s the most interesting bit about Nat Res Mo Na Man: It could come off as cool junk music that is cool to listen to, but not all that fun to throw onto a mix, but the songs are strangely melodic without ever becoming predictable. It’s simply nothing like you’ve ever heard before because before The Junkman, none of it did exist before. Plus, the fact that he’ll say, “We need to change the way we manufacture/and embrace/zero waste” shows that he’ll look you in the eye and call you out for not thinking about the earth and what we do to it. That is just about as rock n’ roll as anyone has ever been.

Bottom line: Junk music mixed with guest vocalists and a keen sense of what sounds good makes Nat Res Mo Na Man unlike anything else coming out this year… or maybe ever.


0 # Nat Allin 2011-09-27 14:28
Can't wait to get a copy.


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