Joe Bartel’s new album “Executive Dysfunction” is infectious, and that’s not just referring to the bile, blood, and death he sings about. Bad puns aside this album is creative and dark in a way that’s hyperbolic and fun, while also tackling several subjects that are afflicting the world today. My take away is that the album is an act of defiance against whatever you have that needs to be defied; cops, government, and death all get the middle-finger. Joe sings about how futile life is, but while looking at the silver-lining. For me, the silver-lining stands out the most on two songs near the end “Wedding Planning” and “Bustin’ Outta Here,” with lyrics like “God damn it I love you” and “I’ll dive head first in to the unknown, but at least I know I won’t be there alone” from the latter song. Speaking of the lyrics, they skew toward the dark and morbid, but never feel creepy or gross. You’re immediately confronted with Joe singing of bile, blood, and death on “Ziggurat,” the first track and single from “Executive Dysfunction.” “Ziggurat” starts off with squealing feedback and then bursts into frenetic distorted guitar strumming that feels like it could lose control at any moment. The song also contains some of my favorite lyrics on the album, “Just because I hate this world, doesn’t mean I want to die, just because it’s pointless doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.” The album is folk at its punkiest with rapid strumming, vocals delivered as growls, and lyrics venture into subjects that are well worn punk territory like anarchy, capitalism, and the destruction of the Earth. Narrowing down a favorite track is difficult, the entire album makes my inner goth heart swoon, but I think I’d go with “Danse Macabre,” a bouncy ditty with a clean guitar and wandering lyrics that cover fleeing responsibilities, the some times ugliness of love, and of course, death. Another stand out track is “Deadlights,” a song about surviving life, and is the second single off the album and arguably the most awesomely chaotic feeling track on the album. You can check out the music video for “Deadlights” below. “Executive Dysfunction” is a dark and bleak album that is sprinkled with moments of pessimistic optimism that fits perfectly in the chaotic world we are all living in.
Joe Bartel (and the Vandalia Cretins):
Joe Bartel - Singer-songwriter, acoustic guitar, frontman, Handsome Gentleman
Joe McKenzie (Shadow Party) - lead guitar, funny banter
Tanner Yokom (Shadow Party, the Sparks) - bass, bgvgs, tall Communist
Ed Draper (Professional Drummer Extraordinaire) - drums, band ringer, way out of our league. Played with Beyonce once.
(Melodic Noise) How's your day going?
(Joe Bartel) I've been better, I'm sick with a fever and cough today. Ibuprofen is a miracle drug.
(MN) How did the band form?
(JB) Live band formed after plenty of hemming and hawing, overindulging, wailing and gnashing of teeth, and eventually realizing I need to put together a band to do this release show right. I called up the homies and that was that.
I've been playing music Professionally© since 2015, when I graduated college and realized I only actually like doing one thing. I've been writing songs and sometimes recording and playing them in front of people ever since. I've released two albums and an EP, Isosceles Kramer, and toured all around this beautiful country.
(MN) What do you consider your genre?
(JB) Anarcho punk
Indie acoustic mad punk DIY post-folk
Use any or none of those! Genre is somehow at once limiting, useful, and arbitrary. I think the best music integrates influences from many different genres.
(JB) My wife's secret record label, which won't have its first official release until 2020.
(MN) Album name? (Story behind the name?)
(JB) Executive Dysfunction
Executive dysfunction refers to a state of reduced motivation and other broader task- and goal-oriented behaviors. The title refers to the effect this awful world has on our individual and collective mental health. This album was at one point going to be titled Anhedonia, a state characterized by a lack of enjoyment or pleasure.
(MN) Lyrically what stands out on the album?
(JB) Themes of death and destruction of body, mind and environment - anxiety, fear, and uncertainty for the future - love, community, maybe futile optimism. Climate change and capitalism became recurring themes that stood out to me more after I finished the recording process than while I was writing it.
(MN) What was the inspiration behind the album?
(JB) Mostly, just experiencing life in America in the year 2019.
(MN) What do you hope people take away from the album?
(JB) That the things they feel about the world and its problems are a universal trauma we're all experiencing, as well as a sense of hope that maybe, somehow, we can move forward anyway, that we're enough for each other and ourselves.
(MN) Is there something that connects the songs together?
(JB) Themes of anxiety, climate change, love and anarchism permeate most of these songs. Some of the songs that are linked thematically and instrumentally transition into one another!
(MN) Locals or transplants?
(JB) Minneapolis Original
(MN) Who are some of your Influences and Minnesota influences?
(JB) Growing up it was the Clash first and foremost. London Calling is the greatest punk album of all time. Other teenage favorites include Jeff Buckley, Blur, Johnny Cash, Wu Tang Clan, and Radiohead. Trampled By Turtles were my local folk heroes in high school.
(MN) Favorite current Twin Cities artists?
(JB) BOB ROSS MOB BOSS. 26 Bats! Admiral Fox.
(MN) What are your favorite venues to play & see shows in Twin Cities?
(JB) Kitty Cat Klub is a national treasure, I play there anytime I'm asked. The best place to see a show is Paperhouse or Hi Watt, or any all ages basement show. If it's not for the teens it's not punk.
(MN) What can fans expect when they come to your show?
(JB) Dark yet absurd and fun upbeat acoustic pop punk with alt folk tendencies from a heavily bearded dude who might need a hug, and would love you to buy him a beer, thank you so much for offering!
(MN) Favorite or crazy memory of playing a show?
(JB) The first time a played a show and people knew the songs and sang along, I went home and almost cried. Also I played a show tonight for ten people with what I'm growing to suspect is bronchitis.
(MN) Who are your dream tourmates?
(JB) Jeff Buckley, Jeff Mangum, Jeff Rosenstock for our Joe and the Jeffs Tour.
(MN) Other hobbies?
(JB) I'm pretty confident with my Toon Link and Piranha Plant but I'm working on improving my Donkey Kong in Super Smash Bros Ultimate. I also enjoy biking, going to local stand-up comedy, reading Tolkien mythos, chess, and sitting down next to bodies of water doing very little (or nothing if possible).
(MN) What do you like about living in the Twin Cities?
(JB) The biking, the nature, the arts communities, Jucy Lucys.
(MN) Favorite places to grab food or drink in the Twin Cities?
(JB) Liquor Lyle's has been my haunt for a while. Nico's Tacos has some damn tasty burritos. Ray Jays is not lying - they have the best wings. I don't care if it's cliche, Fulton Lonely Blond is our best local beer.
(MN) Day job?
(JB) Friendly neighborhood bike messenger
(MN) What are your plans for the future?
(JB) Rock and roll until I can't take it anymore. Maybe write a think piece about anime. Oh yeah, and hopefully a full band tour soon!
You can catch Joe Bartel at the “Executive Dysfunction” release show May 11th at Day Block Brewing.
Review and Interview by: Andrew Perrizo
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