Perpetually and gleefully weird, Texan outfit The Linus Pauling Quartet — in which, make no mistake, there are five members — toy with Lovecraftian themes on their new single, “C is for Cthulhu,” conjuring the Great Old One himself with a hook worth of its Sesame Street-style title. The band’s heavy riffing style comes out in full force across the five-minute cut, pressed with the B-side “My Desire,” a cover of back-in-the-day Houston noisemakers The Pain Teens, in a red 7″ platter edition of 300 copies, the guitars fuzzed out and appropriately lumbering for their subject matter. Production-wise, it’s less raw than some of what Linus Pauling Quartet have done in the past — recording was helmed by bassist Stephen Finley — but particularly for only being a release with two tracks, goes a long way toward showcasing the band’s sans-pretense quirk and open creative sensibility. That is to say, whatever they feel like doing, there’s a good chance they’re going to do it.
“C is for Cthulhu” itself has a metallic feel, thanks in no small part to its burly riff and some death growls backing the chorus. They’re deep in the mix — the lines being, “Don’t eat/Don’t sleep/Hear me calling from the deep,” one imagines that (presumably it’s) guest vocalist Stevie Sims is taking the role of Cthulhu himself in backing guitarist/vocalist Clinton Heider — but set a weighted atmosphere for the track surrounding, and The Linus Pauling Quartet revel in it. With Heider, Finley, guitarist/backing vocalist Ramon “LP4” Medina, organist/synth-specialist Charlie Horshack, Sims, drummer Larry Liska and Erich Zann (another Lovecraft reference) credited with violin, there’s plenty going on throughout “C is for Cthulhu,” but the structure remains straightforward, and it’s the aforementioned chorus that’s the center around which the rest churns. Some vague chanting crops up as they move past the halfway mark and into a fervent solo section with Heider forward in the mix, but they pull back to the verse and give the chorus another runthrough, extending the end on the way to a last-minute kick in pace that rounds out. Flip the record over, and you might think it’s a completely different band.
Having another vocalist plays a big role in that regard. The core five-piece of the band is the same — Sims and Zann, if Zann is a real person, are out — but Heider steps back on vocals and Carol Sandin Cooley takes the mic. A veteran of Houston experimentalists Sad Pygmy, Cooley establishes a punkish command over the rawer-sounding guitar buzz of “My Desire,” The Linus Pauling Quartet taking The Pain Teens‘ noise-caked proto-industrial thud and approaching it with clear reverence. In another context, the main riff could just as easily be grunge as Godflesh, but the heavy treatment it gets — meaner than “C is for Cthulhu” — is one that suits it. “My Desire” is far less playful than its companion A-side, but culminating in a cut-off swell of noise that ends cold for the needle return, it goes show that the band who a couple years ago put out a 3CD set called Assault on the Vault of the Ancient Bonglords neither take themselves too seriously nor are purely interested in screwing around. Or if they are, at least they make it work.
My copy of the 7″ came with a 9 of clubs that had one of the clubs scratched off and what looks like a custom design on back, a sticker, and a download code featuring alternate masters of the two tracks, plus the art itself, which comes on a quality stock that unfolds to the liner notes and lyrics for “C is for Cthulhu.” C is for Cthulhu follows 2013’s Find What You Love and Let it Kill You 7″ EP, and one can only imagine what horrors The Linus Pauling Quartet have yet to come.