Be Here, Be/Non

The new album from Kansas City band Be/Non is nine songs of pompous, grooving rock from Mars, via the male id. It’s 41 minutes and 29 seconds of expertly produced, insanely layered prog-rock defiance that seethes and strikes like an airlock full of space cobras. It’s weird, sexy and angry, like some green-skinned, antennaed alien exotic dancer from a harebrained episode of the original Star Trek. This is an album that Spock could get off to during that mate-or-die, blood-fever trance that happens to Vulcans every seven years.

While making the album last year, a bit of the old Vulcan plak tow seemed to be gripping 29-year-old Be/Non frontman Brodie Rush as he dealt with a messy divorce. Rush, best known around town as the ribald host of Monday night karaoke at the Brick, went into a nosedive of erratic, self-destructive behavior. Fortunately, unlike Spock, he never ended up in ritualized combat with his best friend, keyboardist John Huff.

Quite the opposite, in fact. “It was the one thing that brought any degree of sanity and worth to this [past] year,” Rush says about the album. “Without it, I would be dead or in prison.”

The album’s cathartic centerpiece is “Freedom Palace.” It’s a quicker, jauntier “We Are the Champions” that opens: If you think that I’ve left you for dead/Well, I guess you were only half-right.

It’s a joyous, broken celebration of self-preservation and escape.

The trouble is, hardly anyone will get to hear it — or any song off the album, for that matter. The record has been finished for a while, but Be/Non’s would-be label, Anodyne Records, dropped the band before any contract was signed and before the album was pressed.

In other words, Freedom Palace is as dead as crewman number six. The version I’m lucky enough to have — acquired at a chance encounter on the street in Austin, Texas, last month — is called Free’demo’ Palace. It’s the same record that was supposed to be called Freedom Palace, only it’s a makeshift CD that the band gave out at the South by Southwest music festival, where Rush and company were originally going to play a showcase for Anodyne but played somewhere off the beaten path instead.

According to Rush, Anodyne spent around $10,000 to make the album, most of it on sessions at Westend Recording Studios and on mixing the album in New York. Contract negations dragged on for more than a year, and Anodyne broke its relationship with Be/Non right before South by Southwest.

“Both Be/Non and Anodyne are to blame. It’s just a shame we wasted a year of our time,” Rush says.

In March, I talked to Brandon Phillips, sideman to Anodyne owner John Hulston. “There’s no victory here for anybody,” he said. “We’re not walking away from this with anything. It sucks that a bunch of adults couldn’t reach an agreement.”

Actually, Be/Non walked away with a few things. Apart from the preservation of Brodie — and not being out any money — the band evolved by a quantum leap.

Be/Non started 10 years ago with an album of experimental ’90s grunge called You’re Playing with Children in the Land of the Bugs, produced by avant-garde Brooklynite Martin Bisi (Sonic Youth, John Zorn). It then moved through an EP featuring the Flaming LipsSteven Drozd and, after countless lineup changes, it’s now more tight, solidified and mature than ever.

Rush, of course, is the only original member in the current lineup, which isn’t much more than a year old. Joining him are long-haired prog geek Huff and the blue-collar-rocker rhythm section of Ben Ruth on bass, Adam Stotts on guitar (both of Overstep and the Lucky Graves) and talented newbie Mike Cochran on drums. (Adam Phillips of the Architects and Billy Brimblecom of Blackpool Lights play drums on Freedom.)

Live, the group bashes out its guitar harmonies and bass-heavy, rocket-fueled stomps with growing confidence, turning songs with 80-plus studio tracks on record into riotous extended jams.

In the absence of Freedom Palace, a new EP is on the merch table: Unipegadong, which contains moments of even higher creative intensity than Palace. Opener “Muppy” marries Frank Zappa and the Flaming Lips on the disco floor. It should be on the damn radio.

And Freedom Palace should be on the damn shelves.

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