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Four Minutes of Surprises, with a Cowbell to Boot

Professor Murder is so good-natured that counting influences seems petty.
Professor Murder is so good-natured that counting influences seems petty.

Professor Murder isn't afraid of cultural references: Its name comes from a character on HBO's Mr. Show, the title of "Free Stress Test" recalls the offer meant to entice newcomers to the study of Dianetics, and its sound is ladled from the thick soup of post-punk/neo-new-wave bands and dub-inflected indie rockers who've traded their guitars for synthesizers. No innovations there, but "Free Stress Test" is so good-natured that counting influences seems petty, especially when the group packs so many surprises into four minutes.

There's that snaky opening synth line and the echoes swimming around lead singer Michael Bell-Smith's nonsense vocals — and, of course, the always-welcome cowbell. Then, a couple minutes in, the vocals fall away and band's two sets of drums clatter forward, flailing maniacally before dropping into a clean, appealing groove. The result sounds like the aural equivalent of a smile spreading across a face.

Listen to yesterday's 'Song of the Day.'

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