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8,323 out of 10,000
One of my favorite albums as a kid was Spiderman vs. the Wolfman. There was supposed to be a complimentary comic book, but things got lost in my household, so all I got was the record. Theremin squawking suggested action shots I couldn't see, leaving me somewhat confused. At least there was narration and dialogue. Now, with Colonel Jeffrey Pumpernickel there's no comic book, narration and very little dialogue, but there is an unfathomable story about some guy who may be a robot or fight robots and there are killer caterpillars.

Chris Slusarenko's concept, it's own design shrouded in strategic ambiguity, seems to have been to employ some cool rock acts to put chapters to his strange narrative (The comic book) to song, independent of each other, forging a Rock Opera no one could understand. That's why it works. Since there are only hints to the storyline, the "concept" is hardly more overwhelming than say, Sergeant Pepper (The obvious inspiration for our hero's name and, judging by the artwork to the CD Booklet, his wardrobe). Perhaps it's a little more intrusive, as each song is supposed to be about the man (robot?) and his adventures on the way to the grave (and back? only to be ripped up by an angry mob?), however, once one gives up on following the story, the tunes are for a good majority, quite splendid.

Guided By Voices set the stage and the feel. through weird coincidence or pervasive influence, of many acts to follow. Their "Titus and Strident Wet Nurse (Creating Jeffrey)" blasts a siren of guitar against a hard rock riff, as Robert Pollard's story bookends the tale of Jeffrey, beloved at first, mobbed by enemies at the end in, "Reprise (Destroying Jeffrey)."

Ann Magnuson & Dave Rick keen theatrically as "Dr. Mom" before recounting a stream of consciousness nightmare with an angry bear, and returning for a big finish complete with Brian May guitar flourishes. It's a beautiful indulgence. Quasi, pronouncing Colonel the same way I do, wonder "Which Side Are You On Colonel?" This anthemic song lays out the contrasting viewpoints of the man and robot delegations or something and rocks something wonderful.

By the time The Minus 5 charm with the ballad "The Great Divider (my Ruffled Sleeve)," Jeffrey is surviving by breathing ether, I think. Grandaddy doles out more of the sobbing beauty they do so effortlessly it could start to look like a rut. Their slow acoustic strumming and clunky drumming are answered by the sort piano crashes Elvis Costello would have his piano player hit when EC thought he was Beethoven.

There are a slew of other acts, mostly filler or forgettable. It's surprising when these acts reappear on repeat listens, but not unpleasant. Stephen Malkmus wastes album time with "Blue Rash Intact (Quarantined - Hallucinations Due to Severe Allergies)." Malkmus obviously took this project as an opportunity for a major departure from what he usually does, which is write actually good songs. Standing out the harshest on this compilation are the facile yet soulless Poster Children on "Back In Uniform".

Near the end of this fine disc of music, Ian Svenonius (Microsoft Word spellchecker suggestion: venomous), formerly of the much mourned mAKE UP, excites again with his new act, Weird War. Evidently this band has expanded into an indy super group, recording, even as we speak ,songs hopefully at least half as good as "I'll Never Forget Whatshisname". It's really something to hear. Svenonius finds a new low range along with his signature shrieks as he sings a spellbinding and essential number for some dead guy. I think it's Pumpernickel, but I'd need the comic book.

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