Hella’s seven-track Total Bugs Bunny on Wild Bass EP herky-jerks like a massive animation cellular breakdown—imagine Woody Woodpecker’s electrocution lit by a strobe light. It’s great cartoon-rock in the tradition of Kiss’s Love Gun (or Spice World, but that’s cartoon-pop)—the soundtrack of a kid’s reaction at first sight of FAO Schwarz or the world’s biggest frozen pizza. Especially if that kid is Sonic Youth youth Coco Hayley Gordon Moore, whom guitarist Spencer Seim and drummer Zach Hill guard with life and flailing limb on “Koko.B.Ware” (name misspelled cuz these things can’t be too obvious), all sour-candy synth tones and pitter-pattering pajamaed feet fleeing Vincent Fisher Price organ groans.
On Total Bugs, Hella desert the tuneful stop-start buttlock of last year’s magnificent Hold Your Horse Is. Which would seem a mistake if the band didn’t sublimate their Top 40 melodies (the beginning of the astounding “Who Ray” could easily be Norah Jones) deeper inside their claptrap rhythms and redneck-haiku song titles. This is the musical equivalent of moving off the grid, but then again the intro to “Your DJ Children” recalls Panjabi MC’s “Beware of the Boys,” so the compound ain’t without battery-powered radios. Or, apparently, the Cartoon Network.