Pitchfork (Website) - "The Black Dice member's latest solo outing is ramshackle, blithe, and relatively accessible, with cleaner vocals than usual and a sense of demented whimsy."
Audio Mixer: Rusty Santos.
Following releases for labels like Underwater Peoples and L.I.E.S. that found Eric Copeland simultaneously adding more pop elements to his sound as well as maximizing the weirdness, the Black Dice leader released his most accessible work by far with 2016's Black Bubblegum (DFA). Compared to the stretched-out sample collages and mutant techno of releases like Joke in the Hole and Jesus Freak, Black Bubblegum feels like an intimate acoustic session recorded at a coffee shop. Largely devoid of samples, nearly everything on the album seems to have been created by guitars, vocals, effects, and early Ween-esque drum machines. True to the album's title, each of the songs could fit on one side of a 45-rpm single, and they're nearly as simple and repetitive as any '50s pop hit you could name. As with anything Copeland has his hands in, his vision of bubblegum pop is supremely warped, even if it's fairly straightforward by his standards. Copeland sings on every song, and when the lyrics are audible, they're often the title of the song repeated ad nauseum, with perhaps a few lines of additional verse. His vocals (and everything else) are often double-tracked or covered in echo, and while some of it seems pretty easygoing, it's still incredibly trippy, like an acid-laced version of Homeshake or early Mac DeMarco. The reggae-tinged earworm "Rip It" is an early highlight, with clattering dub effects complementing its repetitive chorus. "On" comes a little closer to something off Copeland's Limbo album, with a slow disco beat and an angular rhythm, as well as what sounds like a pennywhistle tooting underneath his scruffy vocals. "Cannibal World" has a catchy singsong vocal melody that seems like some sort of permutation on bossa nova, but the lyrics are riddled with curse words. "Don't Beat Your Baby" marries this type of shock value to a wobbly rock & roll/boogie rhythm. Black Bubblegum isn't the type of sprawling, messy platter of rhythmic noise that one might expect from Copeland, but it's still wacky in its own way. ~ Paul Simpson