Mike Dillon Strikes Hard, Jazzy & Punky On Quarantine Trilogy: ‘1918,’ ‘Suitcase Man,’ ‘Shoot The Moon’

The pandemic has helped or hindered creativity in different ways for everyone. After 2020’s fantastic Rosewood, percussionist Mike Dillon had an outburst and recorded three albums releasing them all concurrently. Each record, Shoot The Moon, 1918, and Suitcase Man finds Dillon expanding his style, trying a variety of vibrating sounds and singing styles while dealing with his modern-day anger.   

Shoot The Moon is the best of the trio with gnarly beats throughout the jazz-punk-funk amalgamation. Opening with the stomping “Driving Down The Road” and the rising dread of “Camus Sound Asleep”, before the screaming guitars/vocals rail against American Nazis on “Qool Aid Man”. A highlight track is “Apocalyptic Dreams” which uses the tension between rising strings and discordant synth bass, interlocking in intriguing ways throughout. The album ends on a very strong run of tunes as Brad Walker’s sax highlights “Try To Remember”, “Further Adventures in Misadventures” mixes Steve Bernstein’s swirling trumpet with Caribbean percussion and punk/funk closer “Open Up” finds Dillon spouting as Satan with voice effects on addressing political issues. 

Those political feelings drip all over the other two albums as well, 1918 finds Dillon drawing parallels between two pandemics as “Mad Hatter” uses a Tom Waits sounding singing style addressing vaccinations, conspiracy theories, and racism. There are some jarring shifts on 1918, things get personal on “A Word To The Virus” as Dillon pleas for Covid to avoid his mother, before the migraine-inducing “March of the Covidiots” and the odd digital bland bleeping of “Quarantine Booty Call”. The record’s bright notes, like the deep bass electro bubbling of “Pinocchio” and funky vibe work of “Super Spreader” are strong, but a few fevered psychotic dreams like “Covid Cumbia” keep it off-kilter as a whole.     

From its title, Suitcase Man deals with the road warrior Dillon being trapped, stir crazy, at home. This record more than the others moves towards a proper solo album in Les Claypool, Daniel Johnston fashion but falters in final execution The title track directly addresses the unique current stress before Tiff Lamsen adds gorgeous backing vocals to “Turkish Rose”. While living with gun violence (“Show Me Your Hands”), battling addiction (“Empty Bones”) and lullaby (“Roly Poly”)/story songs (“989 Miles”) make up this personal record, Suitcase Man feels more demo/diary then overall affecting art. A track like “Tiny Pink Asses” falls in a Frank Zappa vein without being fully flushed out or cutting, ending up dull like the album overall. 

Dillon’s workhorse attitude and excessive output is bound to lead to a few clunkers but the muse grasped him hard over the last few homebound months. The Quarantine Trilogy is a testament to Dillon’s never-ending desire to create funky percussive sounds and push the noise envelope while developing his singing voice, directing his anger at political numbskulls.   


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