"A Closer Walk ..." by Sputnik Kaputnik | Album Review

by Samuel Segrist

Prognosticus Maximus, the clairvoyant of Lancaster County, can see it now: Next year’s Grammy for Song of the Year will go to Sputnik Kaputnik and the Cherry Mashers’ "Butthole." Remember when the Infallible Seer predicted the online fervor and backlash over the Arcade Fire winning Album of the Year? This is going to dwarf that. Kanye will tweet misspelled inanities about the injustice of it all, and Sputnik and the CM’s will take their recording industry award success for all it's worth.

Record reviewers will be stumped to provide RIYL (Recommended if You Like) comparisons because there has never been a singer like Sputnik Kaptunik with a backing band like The Cherry Mashers. With song titles like “Space Dock Hoedown” and “I Don’t Wanna Space Dock Hoedown (with You) (Anymore),” it is clear this is a band with few pretensions. Their humor-infused songs are short. Seriously, you could listen to more than half of their album in less time than it takes to read this review.

The songs pick one groove and mostly stick with it while the gruff, silly grunts, mutterings and yelps of Sputnik Kaputnik take you on a guided tour of the psychosis of the 21st-century Midwestern American male. Some of the grooves have a German polka vibe, such as on “Space Dock Hoedown” — if that German polka band were playing a fuzzy bass in outer space with beer steins clinking in zero gravity.

One particularly humorous track is “The Ghost of Christmas in July,” which features a dialogue between two people who don’t know what a credenza or a chifforobe is, but to their surprise and horror, they find out that they’re haunted, and when the ghosts come out in all their phantasmagoric glory, the song descends into sonic chaos as their lives are, presumably, snuffed out.

“Hey, Santa!” takes a Christmas wishlist from a demanding 30-something and makes sure that Jolly Ol’ Saint Nick knows what he wants. Among them are “toys, a donkey, world peace, Ultimate Nachos with sour cream and guacamole and a bottle of Scotch — something aged at least 20 years.” However, if dramatic and climactic emphasis is to be trusted, what he really wants most is a gift certificate to McDonald’s.

photo by Dawn Thorfinnson

The final track on the EP, “Nuclear War (Sun Ra)” is the longest and features what is undoubtedly the most-sustained call-and-response vocal dialogue between Mr. Kaputnik and the rest of the guys in the band. Over a dread-inducing wall of shimmering synths by Darrell Pomeroy and a claustrophobic drum and bass groove courtesy of Mitchell Standevish and Harvey Liebschitz, respectively, they make sure you know that “Nuclear War (NUCLEAR WAR!) is a motherfucker (IS A MOTHERFUCKER!)” Taking a cue from Dr. Strangelove, the band takes time to say farewell to the wonderful people who have stuck with them to the beautiful kissing-your-ass-away scene in their atomic death plot.

Taking a closer walk with Sputnik Kaputnik and the Cherry Mashers is not for the faint of heart or the morally uptight, but damn, it’s a silly, fun, savage journey into the heart of the American cream, especially when churned by these four gentlemen of ill leisure.

Samuel Segrist is a Hear Nebraska contributor. He is not a member of the Grammy Awards nominating committee. Reach him at samuels@hearnebraska.org.