The phrase "Cemetery Improvement Society" would be a perfect fit for Max Fischer's resume of extracurricular activities in Wes Anderson's cult-classic film Rushmore, right alongside the Rushmore Beekeepers Society, the Kite Flying Society, and about 200 other oddball organizations.
In fact, The Cemetery Improvement Society as a name makes sense when you consider Marc Claggett and Russell Paul's fascination with zany, self-directed projects, which include wacky online photo-curation efforts, an ongoing arm wrestling and ice sculpture competition and, in the case of Claggett, a new label called Analogy Records.
The duo's latest project, a new album called Lonely Dog Island, is also the product of hours spent plotting, experimenting and goofing off between multiple day jobs. So too is the track "Sixth Severence," which tumbles through about a dozen musical genres in seven and a half minutes.
What's compelling about the track isn't so much its effort to defy categorization but the fact that is sounds like four songs -- and perhaps even four bands -- rolled into one.
Once again, there's a logical explanation for this observation: These two dudes are truly in a ton of bands. Claggett has a role in nearly every group on Analogy Records, all of which share a sense of goofy irreverence, a fascination with electronics and a twin obsession with randomness and absurdity.
"We've never set out to make a specific sound, except for squeezing our cats in front of a microphone to get good samples," he jokes. "We basically push buttons, tweak knobs and pluck at guitars 'til we like what we hear."
The track -- the whole disc, in fact -- was also recorded with the help of some familiar faces: Scott Cannaday and Tyler Commo of The Projection People, one of Claggett's other bands, and mixed and mastered for the low-low price of some Chinese takeout, a few beers and an Alfred Hitchcock album. Now that's a bargain.
If a song's value were the product of its length and its number musical ideas, "Sixth Severence" would be a great deal as well. But that would be missing the point.
It's the unexpected transitions from minimalist instrumental intros to dramatic, hush-and-swell freefalls to moments of guitar shredding that would make Eddie Van Halen jealous that make the track captivating at some times, endearingly confusing at others. In other words, it's bit like Max Fischer himself.
An MP3 of "Sixth Severence" is available in the related downloads section at right. More music by The Cemetery Improvement Society is available on the band's MySpace page. For those seeking a live-music experience, The Cemetery Improvement Society and Revolving Doors will both celebrate their new albums with a CD release party at The Frequency on Friday, April 3.
MadTracks highlights and provides MP3s of songs performed by local musicians. All tracks here are provided with permission of the artist. If you are a musician based in the Madison metro area and are interested in sharing your work as a MadTrack, please send a message.