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CD Review: Alternative Champs' Feelings

Independent; Release Date: Dec. 9, 2014

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It's easy to take everything the Alternative Champs do as a lark — not breaking news with that headline, since playing gigs in nurse's garb and titling songs "Vagina, S.C." gives the game away. But all that monkey business can obscure the fact the Champs — guitarists/singers Mike Mitschele and Rick Randall, bassist Brent Dunn and drummer Dave Massi — are a lockstep-tight unit and superb songwriters.

As if mimicking their various stage guises, the Champs' strong suit on Feelings, their Kickstarter-funded latest, is adapting different styles into their twisted pop world. There's the summery bossa nova of "Little Man in the Boat," and "After Party," the arena rock anthem with vocoder rap bridge and audible bong hits. Kyle Dussault Carinelli's wicked flute solos — how often do you say that if you aren't Ian Anderson? — add a suitably cheesy aspect to "Magic" and two other tracks, and Benji Hughes, who helped write "Drop the Ball," does a superb take on the Prince-meets-Ladies Man track.

Like their heroes Ween or a raunchier Magnetic Fields, Champs' jokes are crude and anatomical, and riff off any aspect of the pop culture universe. "Kenny Rogers, why the fuck did you do that to your face? Are you turning Japanese? Or training to go into space?" Mitschele sings on "Kenny Rogers." "I'd say your surgeon is a real-life gambler."

We either take being funny entirely for granted, or we want our music to impart something serious because we love the stuff so much. But perspective is the best gift the Champs provide here: Hey, screw your feelings. Let's have some fun.

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