Maybe the fact that they’re from Bavaria has something to do with it, but the members of the Notwist—an insane combination of Metallica, Buck Owens, and Moby, are, well, twisted. No matter, because the band’s promotional EP, Only in America, is the best thing I’ve had on my CD player since Beck’s Odelay. Actually, it doesn’t surprise me—the Bavarians and Beck draw from the same sampling melting pot. On Only in America the use of calliopes, key chains (an actual liner-note credit appears), and buzzing mosquitoes feels right at home. “The Incredible Change of Our Alien,” from the band’s earlier days, starts the freak show off with a plucky banjo—a solo that eventually bleeds, mutates, and stutters into a full-frontal guitar invasion. Markus Acher, singing like a colder, scarier Terminator, manages to sound both eerie and erotic all in one breath. “M” and “Torture Day” are more representative of the band’s current hard-edged melodic leanings, combining scratchy lo-fi hi-jinks with phat break-beats. A cover of Robert Palmer’s “Johnny and Mary” transforms a benign pop tune into a more complex, almost metaphysical song of longing and despair. You might have to look around a bit to find Only in America, but in a music scene where volume sometimes takes precedence over talent and creativity, these intelligent, wacky Germans are well worth the search.

—Cathy Alter