Reviews for Universal Freak Out...
The Ripple Effect
The court jesters of stoner rock, Puny Human have parlayed their no-frills chunky riff-mastery into a great catalog of fuzzed out tractor pull rock and roll. These guys riff with the precision of a gem cutter, stopping on a dime, dropping in a monsterous bass line, a scorching lead, then popping right back into the riff as if time had stood still. Featuring such songs as "Every Brain Cell is Immense,""Can't Clap with a Drink in Your Hand,""and, "The Bus Will Eventually Crash," the boys haven't lost their sense of humor on this, their third album, but don't dare think of them as a joke. These guys rock as hard as Clutch and they definitely know their Sabbath. Just check out the bass line and riffblasting the skin off your cheekbones to start "The Real Johnny Charm." Big and meaty, yet smooth as a tequila shot on a hot summer day. Fierce and drunk, just the way we like it.
- Racer XJuly 14th, 2007http://ripplemusic.blogspot.com
It's been four and a half years since we last heard from Puny Human. Back then they had just released their very good IT'S NOT THE HEAT, IT'S THE HUMANITY sophomore album. Life and line up problems served to derail the band for awhile, but thankfully they are back in full command with another heaping helping of heavy stoner metal.
From the cover art and booklet down to the song titles, it's clear that Puny Human don't take their image too seriously. Thankfully on the flip side of that coin, they are obviously deadly serious about their music. The thick fuzzy riffs are a flowin' all over this album, but the band seems to have injected a shot of pure rock 'n roll into their veins as, to my ears, this album is less stoner-inflected than previous efforts. I mean, in a fair world, it wouldn't be a stretch to hear "The Bus Will Eventually Crash", or "Can't Clap With A Drink In Your Hand" on mainstream rock radio - that's how catchy some of these songs are! Hell, they've even got a guest vocal from Canadian rocker Danko Jones on "The Real Johnny Charm". Of course, the band hasn't forgotten their roots as "Number of the Beauty" capably proves.
Some songs on the back end of the album (why's it always the back end songs?) can't keep up the energy level, but overall, UNIVERSAL FREAKOUT is about as solid a stoner metal album as you're ever going to hear. The band is on fire throughout, especially vocalist Jim Starace, who turns in a remarkably strong performance. It's obvious that they're glad to be back making music after the time away. Welcome back boys - here's hoping it's not another three years until the next one!
- Rating: 4.0/5
- Reviewer: WaspmanJune, 2008www.metal-rules.com
The title of Puny Human's third album, Universal Freak Out, coupled with the cover art featuring aliens, flying saucers and a big In the Court of the Crimson King-like mouth had me ready for something a little bit more spacey and psychedelic than what I got when I listened to the album. Not to say what I heard was bad, it’s just my expectations were set up for something a little more different.
Puny Human come from a stoner rock background, and indeed this is heavy in a stoner way, but amped up with frantic energy, unlike stoner rock which tends towards slower grooves than those heard on Universal Freak Out. The band describes their sound as "mixing one part Devo with two parts Deep Purple." In all honesty, I hear far more of the Deep Purple influence than the Devo one. Even that, though, I think is a bit misleading. Lacking keyboards like Deep Purple had to add that certain spaciness to the sound, leaves the music of Puny Human much rawer than Deep Purple. Maybe it's the punkish speed and attitude that causes them to cite Devo as an influence, but I don't really think of Devo as a punk band. Right era, different kind of music. That punkish energy does really come through on a few tracks, especially Party on the 13th Floor. The only time the band gets a little spacey, however is near the end of Made on Mars, perhaps appropriately enough considering the title of the song
Maybe I'm being overly critical here, but that's not the intent, I'm just trying to keep in mind that this is a webzine dedicated to space rock. Don't get me wrong, the music is good rockin', high-energy fun, and if that's what you're looking for, you'll get it here in spades. If you're looking for something freakier, spaced out and psychedelic, you’ll have to look elsewhere. Puny Human plays straight ahead heavy rock, no muss and no fuss about it.
- Jeff FitzgeraldAural Innovations #39 (May 2008)www.aural-innovations.com
Quark, stangeness and charm...
Mixing one part Devo and two parts Deep Purple is the maxim that Puny Human (yes, the name does come from The Hulk's favourite phrase) operate through these days, despite the New York quartet's first two albums being rooted very much in stoner rock. Four years down the line from 'It's Not The Heat, It's The Humanity', and with new drummer John Bongiorno settled behind the drum kit, comes the delightful 'Universal Freak Out', an agreeable lump of a record that in truth nods more to Deep Purple and a host of 70s rock giants than it does Devo's 80s quirk and charm. Perhaps it's songs titles like "The Bus Will Eventually Crash" or "Can't Clap With A Drink In Your Hand" that echo the latter, but the groove here is catchy, heavy, retro rock. Nothing more, nothing less, and all the better for it. (8)
-Jerry EwingMarch, 2008http://www.metalhammer.co.uk/
Delivering on its promising title, Universal Freak Out is New York based Puny Human’s third album to date, though it's
as refreshing as the day they first stomped out of the wilderness from which they obviously spawned. A dozen or so tracks of top notch stoner rock without courtesy for style or swagger, these songs have only one purpose: enjoyment.
That's it. Not to say it's meaningless fun—there's some social commentary in "Wake Up Williamsburg," for instance, but their collective tongue nearly gets bit considering how far its in their cheek. Same goes for the rocking comic book style art that surrounds Universal Freak Out, replete with aliens and retro '50s-style Archie art with fish-out-of-water apocalyptic consequences, etc. They came for the grins.
The tone here is distinctly Black Sabbath-by-way-of-Melvins (see the killer "Number Of The Beauty" for confirmation), but it's even more straight-up than that sounds, if that's
possible. It's not overly thick or worshipful of bass stack
and fuzz pedals, but rather more interested in crafting
some kick-ass songs, and Puny Human have succeeded.
Even attempts for slower fare, like the charming bluesy swing of "Northern Drawl," don't detract from the overall sense of driving purpose to Universal Freak Out, and allows some room to breathe. Still, there's nothing like "Up Not Out" or "Party On The 13th Floor" to get a subconscious headbang going. It's basically reflexive.
So why did it take me over two months to figure out how cool this record is? Not sure. But I'm pretty sure it has something to do with my giving a Christmas present to myself. Break out those gift cards, kids.
In A Word: Rock
-Patrick SlevinJanuary 1st, 2008www.theaquarian.com
Some bands are always good for a nice surprise, especially when it's a band that never belonged to your favourite ones. In my case PUNY HUMAN is a band like this. Well, I never have heard their first album 'Revenge Is Easy', which has been released in 2000 but I wrote a review about the next release 'It's Not the Heat it's the Humanity'. It wasn't a worse album, but for me personal it didn't help to boost PUNY HUMAN's profile. One shouldn't judge a band to early and I'm glad that I didn't do it, because their new album 'Universal Freak Out', which has been released 2007 is more interesting than the previous one. The band is still on the roster of Small Stone Records, but they found a new drummer and entered the studio to record 'Universal Freak Out' with the help of additional guest vocals. Jim Starace is still their main vocalist, but why shouldn't one ask good friends if they want to make their contributions during the process of recording, and among this guests we have also Danko Jones. Not that I'm a fan of his music, but I was just surprised to find his name here.
Anyway, this album marks the triumphant return of PUNY HUMAN, because they have not only written some real catchy killer songs, but also injected a slight dose of 70's Punk Rock into their heavy fuzz rock. 'The Bus will eventually crash' sounds as if early Grand Funk Railroad have listen to a lot of 70's Punk Rock while 'Every brain cell is immense' could be a result of a session between Clutch and Five Horse Johnson, but this isn't the only song, where it seems as if Clutch have left traces in PUNY HUMAN's sound. Humour is also an important thing in PUNY HUMAN's world so that listening to 'Universal Freak Out' can be a very uplifting experience, while you can feel that they must have had a lot of fun during the recording of the album. All this and the variety of the included material keeps the album interesting for a very long time and now for the very first time in my life I will keep an eye on the group's further activities. A really refreshing change!
-KKMarch 1st, 2008www.cosmiclava.com
After three years of almost total inactivity, pretty much everyone had given up on Puny Human -- not least the band members themselves, it seems -- but the arrival of long time admirer and drummer John Bongiorno finally spurred the remaining trio back into action, resulting in their third album, Universal Freak Out. Here, once again, the New York area riff rockers combine a healthy sense of humor ("Wake up Williamsburg," "Northern Drawl," etc.) with dead serious guitar work from driving force Josh Diamond, coming up with an earthy, blue-collar sound, whose understated charms don't exactly make for powerful first impressions. But if typically brief, new millennium attention spans can be breached, Puny Human's quirky amalgam of retro-rock influences and modern-day cynicism steadily make their mark. "Up Not Out" and "Every Brain Cell is Immense," for instance, boast that jumpy, hard rock funkiness of Clutch (with a little less bong residue at the bottom); "The Bus Will Eventually Crash" and "Planting My Impatience" showcase the band's melodic sensibilities, with vocal harmonies and hot guitar licks that really stick; and even though the high-energy "Party on the 13th Floor" finally pulls out all the stops for a good bout of slam-dancing fun, Universal Freak Out's prime offering still remains the slow-churning blues and power chord punctuations of "Number of The Beauty," which somehow melds Pink Floyd's "Money" with Zep's "Black Dog." Canadian wild man Danko Jones is one of several guest vocalists helping out, but the only one who (not surprisingly) takes charge of his performance, providing an extra adrenaline rush to the already memorable "The Real Johnny Charm." Otherwise, Universal Freak Out is a Puny Human party all the way, and more than worth confirmation of their new lineup's belated but much welcome return.
-Eduardo RivadaviaFebruary 29th, 2008www.allmusic.com
I've seen Puny Human live many times, and their enduring image – spazzy, halfway deranged hippy villain and his sluggish, over-aged gamer pals from the basement – never fails to both amuse and unnerve me. Make no mistake about it, the unholy sonic fury these unassuming shleprocks unfurl live is the real Revenge of the Nerds, an onslaught of pent-up frustration and annoyance with dull-brained normals that stings like a number 2 lead pencil in the eyeball. On record, the never-ending war is not so obvious. Here, they do not stab or slash, they merely plot and plan, burrowing through snaky tunnels of ancient fuzz looking for clues and building sinister weapons with Southern boogie riffs and cryptic lyrics constructed from the scribble on asylum walls and the side effects warnings on bottles of experimental prescription drugs. If wild pigs ran through the city streets, you would use songs like Up Not Out and the steel-tipped Every Brain Cell Is Immense to chase them with. Admittedly, I find an entire session of this stuff exhausting, but then I am not plotting a war-against-the-cool like Puny Human and their legions are. I am merely a combat reporter. And my dispatch ends thusly: Universal Freakout is yet another dose of head-chopping, rubbery-legged chubby thunder from the meanest Star Wars geeks in town. And they are coming for your children next.
What have 50's comics and science fiction, 70's heavy metal and 80's post-punk got in common? Initially I'd have answered “not a great deal”, but it turns out there is a connection – they're all things that influence the music of New York nut-cases Puny Human.
Back from a three year hiatus with a new drummer, 'Universal Freakout' is Puny Human's third album. If you were forced to file it by genre, you'd probably have to label it as stoner rock, but that would be a huge oversimplification. Because stoner rock, while being a genre not entirely disconnected from humour, usually takes itself a little more seriously than Puny Human seem to.
That said, the music on 'Universal Freakout' is all business. New drummer John Bongiorno lays down a firm foundation of straight-up hard-hitting beats, with plenty of splashing and crashing punctuation from the cymbals. Meanwhile, the brothers Diamond combine their bass and guitar prowess into a sound that could be one instrument played by two men, or perhaps one man played by two instruments – low rumbling bottom-end riffs with fuzzy chords and solos that ooze from your speakers like cartoon nuclear waste.
These guys know a good riff when they hear one, and hold the narrow line between catchy simplicity and virtuoso skills with ease. The whole band work brilliantly as a unit, with some brilliant stops and drops and breakdowns built into the song structures to produce a set of classic head-nodding tunes.
It's the vocals and lyrics of frontman Jim Starace that really set Puny Human aside, though. He has a kind of wild-eyed delivery style – imagine a paranoid street-corner conspiracy theorist mixed with a Deep South rock singer – which is emphasised by some bizarre overdubs and characterisations.
Throw in some themes that tip a nod towards old-school flying saucer sci-fi movies with some slightly surreal and mad-cap takes on the more traditional stoner rock staples, and you've got some idea where they're coming from; probably about as good an idea as you're going to get, to be fair. Asking too many questions would spoil the fun of Universal Freakout, which is ultimately a top quality riff-rock album with a grin on its face. So settle down with a few beers and wave your hair around for a bit – it might be the last chance you get before the greys come and take you away...
Paul Raven February 3rd, 2008www.pennyblackmusic.co.uk
Whoa! Fuzzy wuzza -wuzza rocker! Good work, boys ! Liquid hard rockin' action heisting basic Ramones-level riffs from Deep Purplely early '70s stomp (read: As essentialist rocker '70s behavior). THIS means (rock nerd Google moment) these guys are working from unsung heroes Dust, who opened for Deep Purple and gave a member to the Ramones. Big, beefy riffs in the warm rockin' classic arena rock mode strained through both the Doc Martin '80s and motor cycle boot/Chuck Taylor '90s as well as the pan rocker Internet '00s so yer kid brother can Hot Topic stumble over'm as well as Down and Wolfmother and be a better lad for it. So what-the-fuck ?-Capitalism Rules, and where does it happen? At the goddamn mall! Where Hot Topic is! Any port in a storm, OK? Put Puny Human on that bill and see what happens.
Best tune: Can't say, but "The Bus Will Eventually Crash" will get yer aunt talkin' about the time she saw Soundgarden and Faith No More at the Newport In Col, Ahia. I was there too; I bought 'er a beer cuz she rocked. The Sir Lord Baltimore avant-retardo bass hoe-down on "Number of The Beauty" is the kinda thing that gets me outta the house after 30 years of gigs (First: The Outlaws, '77, Alfred, NY, most recent: '07, Year Long Disaster/Clutch, Columbus, Ahia), so if yer rockin' this winter, throw the mix CDR you'll make with Puny Human, Clutch, Fu Manchu, Dust, Aerosmith, Federale, Shame Club, Roadsaw, Dozer, Five Horse Johnson, Soundgarden, UFO, Monster Magnet, Tad, Union Carbide Productions, and Grand Funk in the deck: 80 quality minutes and Universal Freak Out stands with the best of 'em.
Craig Regala January 1st, 2008www.lollipop.com
It's been a full four years since Puny Human's last CD, "It's Not the Heat, It's the Humanity," which is a lifetime in the music biz. But it's as if the band never left on its latest CD, another critical shot of quirky and high-flying hard rock.
The CD opens with the hipster baiting thud of "Wake Up Williamsburg" and reaches an early high with "The Real Johnny Charm," which features a charismatic cameo vocal performance from Danko Jones.
From there, Puny Human stretches a bit with the spaced-out psychedelia of "Made on Mars," the bluesy dirge jam of "Northern Crawl," which features a couple of ripping solos from guitarist Josh Diamond, the Queens of the Stone Age-evoking catchy riff-rock of "You Can't Clap W/A Beer In Your Hand" and the manic hard-core punk meets stoner-rock pace of "Party on the 13th Floor."
If it's true that absence makes the heart grow fonder, Puny Human ought to occupy a soft spot in everyone's heart after returning with a CD as excellent as "Universal Freak Out."
Thomas Pizzola January 24th, 2008www.courant.com
These yobs from Brooklyn come out swinging after a lengthy hiatus, but the denim warriors better approach with caution—this won’t appeal to the knuckledraggers who like their meat ’n’ potatoes rock served in bite-sized portions. Like their Williamsburg brethren Bad Wizard, Puny Human have things turned up to 11 as pentatonic riffs lead the way, but you will have to search long and hard for the actual songs laying under the thunderous riffs and gratuitous guitar solos. Fans of early Clutch are sure to dig this.
(Johnson Cummins)January 16th, 2008 (Vol. 23 No. 29)www.montrealmirror.com
Leicester Bangs (UK)
Another welcome contribution from Small Stone, this third release from Puny Human marks something of a departure for both band and label alike. Breaking away from the Human’s standard stoner sound ‘Universal Freak Out’ is higher in energy, less riff-obligated and much lighter in mood than either their own back catalogue or the dense and doomy output of stable-mates such as Sasquatch and Five Horse Johnson. The same demented blues spirit that drives (mega-stars-in-waiting) Clutch is firmly evident throughout, especially on ‘Up Not Out’ and standout ‘The Real Johnny Charm’ (featuring guest vocalist Danko Jones). Song titles such as “’The Bus Will Eventually Crash’ and ‘Every Brain Cell is Immense’ confirm their growing sense of whimsy without blockin’ the rockin’.
Neil B.January, 2008www.leicesterbangs.co.uk
Daredevil Records (Germany)
Third album by U.S. Rockers PUNY HUMAN and again SMALL STONE is the source of distribution. The first album was releases in 2000 and already with this one they made quite a name Stoner Rock genre. Sure they have enough that conects them to the scene, but I prefer to call it Ball Rock (balls you know).
WAKE UP WILLIAMSBURG brings in fat rumbling basslines cool chords and the manly voice of Jim Starace, probably not the easy earworm but convincing right from the start. UP NOT OUT is paced pretty fast and THE REAL JOHNNY CHARM delivers a nice beat and the hook in the middle of the track is a pure stunner (the song also has a guest appearance by DANKO JONES). THE BUS WILL EVENTUALLY CRASH is a bit more laid back but still straight on, NUMBER OF THE BEAUTY takes a classic BLACK SABBATH riff as a carrier that gets packed with fine 70's Rock quotations. PLANTING MY IMPATIENCE dwells in melodies that have a slight QOTSA flair attatched to them, this also goes for the more mellower and spacy MADE ON MARS. NORTHERN DRAWL delivers pure Rock with a fat main riff to it and of course a punch from hell, PARTY ON THE 13TH FLOOR is a fast Punk number that goes fluently in the uptempo Retro Rocker CAN'T PLAY WITH A DRINK IN YOUR HAND.
Again very high PUNY quality.
INFO: 12 Songs 49 min
Thomas SchubertJanuary 9th, 2007www.daredevilrecords.de
The Cutting Edge
Being fans of their contribution to the Small Stone Sucking In The Seventies Vol. 2 compilation and their past two records had us salivating over the new Puny Human. If what they did to the Osmonds’ “Crazy Horses” was any indication of their future drive – we definitely wanted to be on board for the ride. But hold on “Waking Up Williamsburg” was a serious departure for the NYC stoners. It had a more prog-like QOTSA edge to it and took a couple listens to lock in. “Up Not Out” and “The Bus Will Eventually Crash” were more immediate and thrilling with the freight train rhythm section we’ve become accustomed to. Yet there is the additive of pub punk that dances through the disc that’s not entirely Dropkick Murphys or Flogging Molly, but still dripping of the motherland. Check out the mid-section of “The Real Johnny Charm” and listen for the tapping of your feet. “Number Of The Beauty” and “Party On The 13th Floor” have the same urgency as they diffuse into Ramones clatter.
This isn’t the same band as it was back in ’03. These guys are more diversified. Their arrangements are more…complex. The musicianship is still reverberating but the playing is…we’ll, more mature – therefore the title is amply suited as in many cases this is a Universal Freak Out. Mixing up a montage of ‘70s rock with ‘80s song structure play an erratic assortment on the ear. Some are friendly; others are an acquired taste. “Planting My Impatience” falls right in line with quirky time changes over a solid rock line including chugging guitars and a whiplash bass. The Southern bounce in “Every Brain Cell Is Immense” and the Clutch-like dexterity of “Northern Drawl” connect in spirit while “Made On Mars” and “Twin Fever” take an eclectic spin through extended jams, signature twists and melodic breakdowns; still hanging onto an infectious riff. “Can’t Clap With A Drink In Your Hand” is a killer bar tune, perfect for closing the joint down and mean enough to scare off the riff raff.
Todd K. SmithJanuary 7th, 2008www.thecutting-edge.net
Assaulting one's sonic senses with all the hard-charging drive and ferocity of an out-of-control locomotive tearing down the tracks at maximum speed, this album makes a strong immediate impression with the powerful opening song "Wake Up Williamsburg." The huge, pounding drum beats, fierce churning basslines, and gritty grinding guitars shred it up with startling go-for-the-jugular brio. The raw'n'ragged full-throated vocals likewise kick major ass in no uncertain terms. The brisk steamrolling tempos never let up for a minute. Sweet and subdued this music sure ain’t, but it definitely hits the savagely satisfying spot with bracing on-target accuracy all the same.
Joe Wawzyrniak December 31st, 2007www.jerseybeat.com
On a label known for distilling the essential best out of their bands and dispensing with the rest, Puny Human was a basic riffrock machine back in 2003, when their sophomore release 'It's Not the Heat, It's the Humanity' was released on Detroit's mighty Small Stone. Although there was definitely enough quirkiness in their sound to maintain a listener’s interest back then, for the hard driving meat n' potato musical essentials, these were your men.
Which was fine, but then the group entered the Dreaded Hiatus, and little was heard from them for years. Fast forward to the end of '07, and the good news is that the Hiatus, killer of many a lesser band, has not prevailed against the Puny Humans (a reference from The Hulk, if you were wondering). In fact, the group has emerged from their cocoon of silence with the most diverse, well-written, well-played, and interesting album of their career, a fitting capper for the label's '07 releases.
The band's trademark quirkiness is still there - in point of fact it's stronger than ever - but the basic rawkin' of yore has become more complex, proggy in fact. The arrangements are more diverse and mature and the playing is far more accomplished. A classic rock sound vies with nerdy spazz influences to present a unique amalgam, underscored with lyrics promoting the weird side of city life. Examples? The album opener, 'Wake up Williamsburg' (Brooklyn, 'natch) is both heavy and odd; repeated listens will highlight some amazing bass playing underneath some genuinely goofy falsetto vocal harmonies. In 'Number of the Beauty' Floyd's 'Money' and Zeppelin meet QOTSA on the far side of the Cadillac desert, where guitar amps are fueled with energy rays from other planets instead of conventional gas generators. Nice syncopation on the drums, too.
As is so often the case in cultural matters, what makes Puny Human's 'Universal Freak Out' interesting is the constantly shifting palette of complements, contradictions and influences in their compositions. With these guys, you get a blending of classic FM bands such as Deep Purple, Grand Funk, and Cactus with the braininess of Devo, QOTSA, and King Crimson. Most listeners will immediately think of Clutch, although I've read that the band downplays this particular connection. In any case, this music is all about having fun, played by dudes who appreciate The Riff. Let's just make sure that there's not another four-year gap until the next release, hmmmmm?
Kevin McHughDecember 28th, 2007www.hellridemusic.com
To be honest, I didn't think Puny Human was going to make it. While their last album, It's Not the Heat, It's the Humanity, had more than its fair share of great songs (namely the first half), it also came out in 2003 and the band hasn't been that active since then. The past couple of years, you could probably count all the gigs they've played on both hands and had enough digits left over to give an obscene gesture or two.
Upon listening to Universal Freak Out, it's apparent the time spent out of the public eye was well spent. Universal Freak Out may touch upon the stoner fuzz that defined debut Revenge Is Easy and the good time grooves of It's Not the Heat, It's the Humanity, but it also takes the NYC band in new directions. "Wake Up Williamsburg," the lead track, sounds almost prog-like in structure and has the band pushing the melodies to the forefront. "Up Not Out" follows, and it's the closest to the band's previous material. "The Real Johnny Charm," which features backing vocals by Danko Jones, really highlights Puny Human's new sound. They've always had a knack for quirky, quality songwriting - think Clutch influenced primarily by Deep Purple - but Universal Freak Out highlights the musical dexterity of the band, namely between Josh and Jason Diamond (guitar and bass respectively).
That's repeated on "The Bus Will Eventually Crash" (possibly the best of the lot, but that's debatable), "Number of the Beauty," and "Planting My Impatience." The two brothers have a solid connection, playing off of each other, pushing the songs forward. Throw in Jim Starace's unique lyrics and crazed street preacher-s t y l e vocals and the solid drumming of John Bongiorno and you've got the makings of a great rock album.
Unfortunately, there's a slight dip in memorable songs until "Northern Drawl." From there the band rides out strongly (although not as strongly as they began, which is a habit from their previous albums that they couldn't shake). In the end, the pros outweigh the cons, making Universal Freak Out a welcome return.
October 13th, 2007www.stonerrock.com