Friday, November 20, 2009

#41. Fight Like Apes - ...and the Mystery of the Golden Medallion (Model Citizen, 2008) and Dananananaykroyd - Hey Everyone! (Best Before, 2009)

Yes, this is gonna be another lamentation about how music stopped being fun and got too fucking serious, especially in the sphere of critically acclaimed releases. If you've heard either of these albums you know that these aren't serious albums, they're the kind of album you can just throw on, relax and get a genuine grin on our face within about 5 minutes regardless of your mood previously. I know that these two, especially Fight Like Apes and the Mystery of the Golden Medallion are not great albums. They're flawed creations with a lot of issues that could probably be ironed out by their next releases, but they're so singular in their flawed nature that it's absolutely impossible to do anything but stick em on the list regardless. If you want a good place to start with teh battle between objective and subjective insofar as criticism, look no further than here: I know that neither of these albums is objectively deserving of a place this high up (well, maybe Hey Everyone! is, but we'll get to that later) but in my mind they're two of the most downright fun releases of the last couple of years and it would feel wrong to ignore them. And since it's my list, objectivity can suck it on this occasion.

The flaws of ...and the Mystery of the Golden Medallion are especially apparent; the lyrics are occasionally painful, the music is lacking and it's produced with so much emphasis on loudness that any sort of dynamic range the band might have goes out the window. Yet inspite of all that, I fucking love it. I can listen to it front to back and not care about how middling it all is because it's so much fun to listen to. That's the sort of quality that's under rated in music nowadays, the ability an album has to make you ignorant of its flaws, however major, and just set about the task of making you smile like a loon for its whole length. The band itself sounds like the least likely combination to pull this off, a friend of mine described them as 'what would happen if Demi Lovato took too much acid and recorded an album with some whacko noise-punk band' and that's about as accurate as I've heard, but something in their fusion of LOUD synth blurts and beeps, McLusky-ian rhythm section and vocalist MayKay's alternately tender and punishing vocal style makes for am undeniably exciting, if patently stupid, listen.

It certainly helps that behind all the idiocy there's a decent sense of pop-craft to be unearthed. I've already praised "Jake Summers" to the heavens, but it bears repeating that it's one of the most fun singles of the last few years, and it's nearly matched by the likes of "Do You Karate?" and "Lend Me Your Face." The less raucous numbers, not that they aren't raucous in their own way, just less singularly focused on it, are just as fun, and "Tie Me Up With Jackets" might rival "Jake Summers" for the most essential moment on the album if it had anything as awesome as the primal 'FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK' at the end of the latter's second verse. Even if the album kinda falls apart after the much better than it's title would suggest "I'm Beginning to Think That You Prefer Beverly Hills 90210 to Me" and leadoff track "Something Global" isn't as good as it thinks it is that's a full 75% of the album that's the perfect mix of unpretentious fun and instantly earwormy hooks that makes any sort of flaws glide by without much notice. I can't figure out how they pull it off, but it works and I'm not gonna question the whys of it all.

If the one word description of ...and the Mystery of the Golden Medallion is 'fun', the only possible way to describe Hey Everyone!, Dananananaykroyd's first LP, so succinctly would be to call it 'busy.' The very nature of the band pretty much guarantees that description since its lineup reads like Noah's Ark for rock instruments; two drummers like an early 80s Fall LP, two bassists like Dianogah, two guitarists who want to be compared to Polvo's ace team but ain't quite there yet and two vocalists who are pretty interchangable - plus the band's fond of gang shouts anyway so it's not just two in a lot of cases. Now, on paper that looks very, very awesome to me; guitar interplay is one thing I can never get enough of so the possibility of expanding that to every instrument in the band's arsenal strikes me as a great experiment. In practice it falls apart though, sad to say. It may be going for multi-layered interplay heaven but hte results often sound cluttered above all else. It's not as big a stumbling block now as it was for the first couple of listens, but there are still moments where so much is going on that it all crumbles into a big mass of nothing.

But the saving grace is, once again, that it's a blast to listen to if you put that out of your mind. The best songs here - "Pink Sabbath," "Some Dresses" and "Watch This" to name the real cream of the crop - are absolutely fierce bits of post punk bliss. The double drums are as propulsive as you'd imagine, like Hex Enduction Hour on amphetamines and a sugar high, and when the guitars and basses converge into a breakdown it's positively massive sounding in the best way possible. Even when the complex instrumental set up breeds nothing more than a jumble of riffs that want to coalesce but can't quite get there it can be completely exhilarating if you can put the frustration aside. It's clear that these guys and gals are damn talented as players too; listening to the guitars in isolation from each other (great stereo panning in this one I must say) reveals a lot of extremely tight, knotty riffs that might rival some of Polvo's mid-level riffs if the interplay between them was a bit more polished. It's just a case of the band not knowing when to stop on some levels I guess. They have the songs and the talent but they don't quite have the skill to pull it off the way they want to. It's a shame that this seems to be putting people off the album since it's damned great fun if you just listen to it and don't analyze it. And since we're about to start with the section where analysis is the main watchword it feels nice to talk about a couple of albums that don't need that sort of insight to be deservedly listed among my favorites of the decade.

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