I’m not exactly sure what one would expect a band named Mr. Gnome to sound like, but I’m pretty sure it’s not like this. The beginning, maybe, with its winsome clickiness, but as soon as Nicole Barille opens her mouth, smoky and flirty as she wants to be, I’m getting a disconnect between the name and the vibe—which is no doubt part of the point, it eventually occurs to me.
Look at how the song itself changes course rather drastically, more than once. While generally the song is divided into the quiet first half and the noisy second half, “Bit of Tongue” actually has at least four distinct sections, depending on how you parse it, each of which repeats a certain number of times before moving to the next section. The opening vocal section, beginning at 0:26, is unaccountably beguiling, its thoughtful melody and purposeful momentum interrupted at the end of each extended lyrical line, only to head back and do it again, four times in all. The subsequent shift at 1:38 however is nothing compared to the rearrangement at 1:57, when pretty much all hell breaks loose. From there on we’re in the “noisy half,” as Barille, the duo’s guitarist, joins with drummer Sam Meister (who also plays piano) in a feisty, good-natured bash for about 20 seconds or so. The mood swings don’t stop there, by any means. These guys are either relentlessly creative or have very short attention spans. Or both. In any case they appear to enjoy confounding expectations at every turn. Mr. Gnome it is.
“Bit of Tongue” will be found on the Cleveland-based band’s forthcoming album, Madness in Miniature, not due out till late October, on El Marko Records.