When the clone Defects nailed their artistic conclusion in '04, Detroit's rock 'n' roll scenesters waited to see what the band's extraordinary frontman Tim Vulgar (aka Tim Lampinen, although the name depends on the mood you catch him in) would do next. When the first self-titled Human Eye record appeared soon afterward, it was with a mixture of relief and unadulterated pleasure, since Lampinen was continuing to push the boundaries of the experimental genre, creating music both relevant and challenging. Like the Clone Defects before them, the Human Eye is not your typical Motor City rock 'n' roll band and it's to Vulgar and company's eternal credit that the band is practically impossible to pin down with conventional subgenre labels. Sure, it's noisy, but "art-rock," for example, evokes an air of pretension that Lampinen hasn't cultivated and certainly doesn't deserve.
With Fragments of the Universe Nurse, the band's second album, Human Eye has once again attempted to be as damned awkward as possible and they should be applauded for courage and musical expertise. Fact is, Lampinen's a pioneer, especially in the sense that his guitar sound is instantly recognizable as his own; he has that (if nothing else) in common with Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello and Bowie's Reeves Gabrels.
Synth-man Johnny Lzr produces some interesting and often disturbing noises on the new disc, while drummer Hurricane William Hafer and bassist Brad Hales do magnificently well keeping the whole cacophony inside some semblance of structure.
Problems arise, however, because the hooks that kept the debut album interesting — drenched in acid as they were — are largely missing here. Though the record's second half improves upon its self-indulgent first, it leaves the listener with the sense that Vulgar has gone out of his way to make Fragments of the Universe Nurse as difficult to enjoy as possible. Maybe that's his intention? Even so, it's frustrating when one considers what he's capable of. Who knows? A couple of years down the line, this album might make sense. But by then, he will undoubtedly have blown our minds a few more times with whoever knows what.
Brett Callwood writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.