Y’all, I do my best to stay on top of this stuff, so I felt like a chump when I walked up to the merch table at our local Messer Chups show to find an album I’d never seen before. Their new one no less! To be fair, Mondo Harp has been strangely under the radar, with barely any mention on facebook and not yet having made its way to bandcamp or even Amazon. The opening track “Humanica” has a video available but it’s promoting the tour, not the album.
That opening track is classic Messer Chups, which actually might give you the wrong idea on this one. It’s easy to shrug off the album titles of a band that has released such nonsense names as Spooky Hook and Crazy Price, but there was intentionality behind Mondo Harp! Much like Aloha Swamp’s experiments with pedal steel, Messer Chups try out a completely new instrument, this time one I’m not sure I’ve ever heard in surf: the harp. Not a jaw-harp, not an auto-harp, but the big elegant sit-down instrument. The Guitaracula is still at center-stage, but I really appreciated that extra touch. It’s not a combination I would have expected to work, specifically mixing an angelic instruments with the horror-movie tones of this band in particular, but I really love the way it turned out. At times it reminds me of the softly recorded piano parts in The Chantays’ work, but mostly it’s a pretty unique thing that compliments this music well.
There are a few tracks on here that don’t feature the harp and some of them are even re-recordings of previous Messer Chups/Guitaracula works. I knew for certain that I’d heard “Twin Peaks Twist” on a previous album and listening to it I didn’t understand why it was here again, but comparing it back-to-back against the version on 2009’s Heretic Channel it is indeed different and improved.
I really like this album. I’m pretty sure I’ve said before that I was actually a little bummed when Messer Chups went in a more trad surf direction vs the sound that stemmed from Messer for Frau Muller, but I gotta say I’m coming around. Incredible Crocotiger was a very honed and polished version of what they were about, and I thought it was excellent, but I love these curveballs they’ve been throwing at themselves with this album and Aloha Swamp. This might be my favorite Messer Chups album since Crazy Price and I hope they keep the gimmicks coming.
As hinted at before, I only saw this at the merch table on their (now concluded) tour. I'm sure it'll find a wider release soon.