Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Google+ Share on Reddit Share on Pinterest Share on Linkedin Share on Tumblr Eric André’s late-night talk show on Adult Swim – “The Eric Andre Show” – has often been described as the only late-night talk show coming directly from the Black Lodge, the otherwordly realm of evil energy from whence the antagonists of David Lynch’s “Twin Peaks” originate. It is a fitting comparison, and not only because André is a fellow practitioner of Lynch’s oft-proselytized transcendental meditation. “The Eric Andre Show” takes the seemingly banal, harmless entertainment genre of the talk show and exposes its dark underbelly. The show strips back the layers of fake-sincerity and chumminess to reveal an abusive format that exists solely to stroke the egos of the maniacs (almost all men) who sit behind the desk. It would be wrong to say that André was striving for total anonymity around Cease & Desist, his first musical outing as Blarf, a name shared by his college band. Had this album appeared out of nowhere, there might have been at least one hype-cycle centered around who was behind it, but by the time the record was released it was clear – despite the fact that, when asked by Pitchfork if he was André, Blarf replied “Who the fuck is that?” – who that was. There does not seem to be any discernible reason why André did not put the album out under his own name. The directionless nature of the release is, unfortunately, reflected in the music itself. “The Eric Andre Show” is built around provocations, both of the guests and the audience. It helps that putting celebrities through a surreal nightmare is generally pretty funny. As Blarf, André doesn’t have this advantage. He samples a Bill Cosby bit on album opener “Badass Bullshit Benjamin Buttons Butthole Assassin” and everything that is both bad and boring about this album is exemplified here. Maybe what Blarf is aiming for is clear in the title and the sample-heavy nature of the music. The album art is heavy on corporate imagery. The front is plastered with McDonald’s signifiers. The back includes the Pepsi logo (and what appears to be a picture of Michael Jackson). The vinyl version has the artist’s name rendered like the Burger King logo. It would be surprising if any of the samples were cleared. However, there is nothing more commonplace in the music industry these days than un-cleared samples, cease and desist letters and threats of lawsuits written in the iPhone Notes app. The provocations here are empty. Which is a shame, because the album does contain some interesting musical ideas. The aforementioned track is mostly a groove-heavy work of plunderphonics. Tracks like “Save it Babe” and “Boom Ba” go unexpectedly hard while retaining sonic density. Tyler, the Creator would be at home putting a verse on the latter. That is, until the track – for some reason – devolves into a Patton Oswalt bit from the Bush-era. “Banana” revolves around a jaunty piano track and vocals that approximate something like tropicália before an orchestra takes over for a few measures. The track moves into what at first sounds like a breakdown – the drums pick up, a flute solo threatens – and then the track speeds through a swirling storm of musical ideas before the sound of a man crying takes the tune through to the fade-out. This is André’s m.o.: lure the audience in with something pleasant, introduce an unexpected tension, let chaos ensue and leave them in a dark, confused place. It’s what makes his show brilliant and it’s what is (mostly) lacking in his output as Blarf. More than half the tracks on Cease & Desist come in under two minutes and, even if they have interesting motifs, feel like half-baked sketches. Closing track, “The Me in Me” runs a sample of Bob Dylan’s “The Man in Me” through layers of distortion and overlays a heavy, off-kilter beat. It sounds like a My Bloody Valentine song and is kind of brilliant. But, ultimately, the track is just a 25-second sample repeated a few times. It is neither dynamic enough to justify its short length, or long enough to justify its repetition (though it would be easy, and is tempting, to put the song on infinite repeat). The only genuinely provocative moment on the album comes through the 12-minute “I Worship Satan.” Despite its yawn-inducing title, the track manages, through its length and sound, to anchor the album just as it starts to come undone. The track consists of 10 minutes of Merzbow-like noise, a sonic annihilation that stands in stark contrast to the beat-laden and sample-heavy tracks that surround it. There are subtle shifts in dynamic throughout the drone section. It begins with distorted voice and moves through bass warbles and high squelches until it settles into a contemplative wash of soft static. The track then moves into a distorted sample of what sounds like a melodrama from the ‘50s overlaid with chaotic, tension-building jazz sample before a thump descends, like a body hitting the floor, which gives way to . . . the “Reading Rainbow” theme music. The tune is capped off by the opening bars of Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Love’s Holiday.” Though the track ends haphazardly, like he really doesn’t care how it wraps up, André does make something, here, that stands out for its sustained commitment to the “bit,” as it were. Blarf could be part of a long con, a vast performance art piece in the inanity of U.S. copyright law. Maybe it will factor into the hopefully-coming-soon fifth season of “The Eric Andre Show.” However, while André winding up in court up against the McDonald’s corporation or the Cosby estate could be funny, it is unlikely to happen. For now, the joke could ultimately be on listeners who engage the whole affair seriously, parsing out each track and wondering what the point is behind it all. It’s not clear there is one, but it seems clear that André doesn’t care either way.