Imagine stumbling into a 4 a.m. jam session between cult icons Captain Beefheart and the B-52s. Preposterous, right? Well, that’s exactly what you’ll get out of New Orleans new wavers the Way’s bizarrely contagious, unsettling romp, Half Awake. It begins with “Big Red Rubber Ball,” a twisted organ boogie that finds leader Benjamin Arthur Ellis spouting outlandish quips like, “I don’t chase women / I let them come after me.” Later, the slinky, sleazeball strut “Warm” paves the way (pun intended) for the quirky, lofi ramshackle of “Make Me Cry” and more zany verses such as, “I take my baby to a restaurant to get a burger / I take my baby to scary movie about a murder.”
But there’s a bit more to the Way’s kooky frenzy than a bunch of cockamamie come-ons. Without a guitar presence, this four-piece rumbles along with two keyboards. Throughout Half Awake, the incessant clamor of the Rhodes and crazed synth undulations propel the party to the brink of lunacy. Case in point, the insanely infectious jangle “Rigmarole” captures underground buffoonery at its finest. Not surprisingly, the Way can’t resist indulging their fanciful imaginations. The haunting, tongue-in-cheek narrative “The Wizard” plays like a lost episode of H.R. Pufnstuf, ceding its sinister undercurrent to the climactic instrumental “Continuum.”
The second half of Half Awake features a handful of instrumental reveries, none better than the spacey, psychedelic title track. Still, Ellis manages to work in a few more inane innuendos. Under the sweeping pastel drift of Helen Gillet’s cello in “Baby I Love You,” he muses candidly and with unequivocal eccentricity, “Maybe it was your dress / maybe it was your breasts.” Call it blissful belligerence; call it oddball ingenuity; Half Awake will leave you reveling in a glorious (and oblivious) stupor. What else can you say about a group that’ll send you off with a cheery sing along entitled “Hopeless Opus”!