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Stroke of Genius

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Halloween would seem like the ideal occasion to see Consortium of Genius, the Morgus-inspired rock/theater/comedy combo, but the band isn't so sure.

"You'd think so, wouldn't you?" says Lewis D'Aubin -- Dr. Milo Pinkerton onstage.

"I think Halloween kind of numbs it a little bit because everybody's dressed up," says guitarist Jeff King, who plays Dr. A. Pentatonic. "If you come see us in the middle of May and there we are, idiots in costumes, it's a little more shocking, a little more, 'These guys are ... '"

"... insane," D'Aubin finishes.

The two are joined in C.O.G., as they refer to the band, by Jim Fairchild as Dr. Z in the act, which has been around since 1993. Originally a studio project, "The name was on a cassette I put out of the detritus I recorded while I was doing sound for all these other bands and writing these weird, humorous songs with the members of the other bands I was working with," D'Aubin explains.

The band has always walked the fine line between being a goof and not. When it first played live in 1996, the lineup included a bass player who was so self-conscious about not being very good that he played with his back to the audience. Since then, there have been a number of lineup changes, slowly improving the quality of players, D'Aubin says. King first played in C.O.G. in 1999 when a guitar player failed to show up for a gig. "I was a fan and asked, 'What are you opening with?' Lewis said, 'Science Party.' I said, 'I know the song.'"

"I asked you what your name is, your character name ...," D'Aubin continues.

"I didn't say anything. I just ripped off a guitar scale ... ."

"A pentatonic! He became Dr. A. Pentatonic."

The central joke in the band may be the idea of three mad scientists, but performing and recording the material has forced the band to become fairly scientific. The fourth member of the band, they contend, is Drumbot, a computer they program that helps synchronize the live video, sound and lights.

"You'd need a crew of 20 people to pull off synchronized sound and lighting," King says, "but the bad side is we're at the mercy of the computer. If it fails ... "

" ... then things get really funny," D'Aubin finishes.

Typical of guys pleased with their comedy, King and D'Aubin almost can't stop joking, and they periodically drift into their characters' shtick, but the conversation gets more serious when they talk about the new C.O.G. album. They're hustling to finish In C.O.G. We Trust in time for its CD-release party Nov. 13 at The Howlin' Wolf. "This album took four years," D'Aubin says. "We recorded everything on there with our own equipment in our own studio and mastered it ourselves. We're doing all the artwork ourselves."

We're musicians, we're recording engineers, we're photographers, we're a whole bunch of stuff," King continues. The results are an entertaining pastiche as the songs self-consciously mimic other bands and styles. "I Have the Power" stacks harmony vocals a la Queen, "Reach Out and Touch the Hand" sounds like a melodramatic Neil Diamond ballad, while "Why Do We Do It?" is '80s electronic dance pop with its mechanical synthesizers. On the album, the songs are laced together with comedy bits, just as they are live. The sketches, however, change with each show to accompany the plot of each performance.

"They're tightly scripted," D'Aubin says.

"It's tightly scripted to begin with ... " King adds.

But loosely performed.

Sunday afternoons from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., Cafe Brasil hosts "Nickel-A-Dance Soirees" with the intent of keeping alive the neighborhood dance tradition. The shows are free, and this Sunday, Oct. 31, Lionel Ferbos and the Palm Court Jazz Band perform. In upcoming weeks, Preservation Hall Hot Four, Jack Maheu & Fire in the House Callithumpian Jazz Band, and Walter Payton's Filé Gumbo with Al Carson will perform.

It was appropriate that the spirit (not the ghost) of Brian Wilson was evident Saturday afternoon at Voodoo in City Park. The completely rerecorded and beautiful Smile had just been released, and the love of pretty, orchestrated songs was in the air. The Polyphonic Spree clearly owes a lot to the Beach Boys' grander, more orchestrated material, and the Thrills from Ireland also used mid-career Beach Boys as a touchstone. Scotland's Snow Patrol's pop was less obviously Beach Boys-influenced, but singer Gary Lightbody name-checked him in a song.

Sunday was less harmonious. New Orleans' Supagroup finished its early afternoon set with typical bravado as guitarist Benji Lee said, "Top that, Shinedown," referring to the next band to perform. Shinedown's set of Creed-like nu-metal ended soon after guitarist Jasin Todd threw up onstage. At the end of the song, singer Brent Smith announced with puzzling pride, "To the band before us that said, 'Top that' -- well, I don't know if we did, but I didn't see anybody in your band puking onstage."

"If you come see us in the middle of May and there we are, idiots in costumes, it's a little more shocking," says Jeff King (left) of Consortium of Genius.
  • "If you come see us in the middle of May and there we are, idiots in costumes, it's a little more shocking," says Jeff King (left) of Consortium of Genius.

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