“Muppety” is the description Radix Faruq uses for his new collection, a collaboration with Louly Peacock. Together, as Rad Lou, they create fun and strange songs that do recall a late-’70s-era episode of “The Muppet Show” — in a good way. There’s a high level of absurdity mixed with serious musical chops; there’s whimsy mixed with punk ethos. “When I turn around I’m delighted by / the goggly eyes staring at me from the dresser,” Faruq sings on “Stuffed Animals.”
The album packs 20 tracks into one hour, with songs ranging from longer than five minutes to under two. “Ladida,” the shortest offering, is a soulful a cappella number with Faruq singing a rich and theatrical melody while Peacock molds her vocal like an accompanying instrument. “Lunch” takes cues from “Monster Mash” while “Saint Joe’s,” with its haunting, carnival-blues sound, might be a commentary about a local hospital. Or not. It’s hard to differentiate what’s social commentary and what’s wild creativity — and that’s part of the charm of Rad Lou.
“MC Pop” opens with a sample (or kid’s voices … there is offspring captured here and there on the LP) — a departure on an album that’s mostly keyboards (Peacock), drums (Faruq) and vocals (both). But the band doesn’t need a lot of gear to embark on its avant-garde adventures. There’s a lot to be said for minimalism. “Bomb the Suburbs (You Bad Ass Moms!),” a contender for best title, presents a platform from which Peacock’s expressive voice can contort and catapult through bizarro lyrics.
“Shalimar and the Moon” is a spoken word piece while “Please Don’t Follow” is a surrealist exploration of the idea of equality. “No woman or man or squirrel or toucan should be meant to walk behind me / or be cloaked and veiled,” Faruq and Peacock sing over a marching beat and ambient melody. And “Civiche,” an ode to the fish dish, drifts through Burlesque-like verses before launching into the shouted, staccato pummel of its chorus. (As far as odes go, “Butt Implants” is only slightly less impassioned.)
The final trio of songs — one about living in Asheville, one about watching children grow up, and one about the Rad Lou band — suggests that anything is fodder for Faruq and Peacock. No subject is too strange or mundane, all topics are treated with equal parts artistry and absurdity. And while the album is certainly not meant as background music — and its songs might prove challenging to fit onto a playlist — its exuberance, energy and undeniable sense of delight in creating art makes it right at home among local releases.