Ever been waiting for something to arrive, yet were unable to articulate
what it might be? For the last year and a half, I've been waiting
for the next "thing" to run across my desk, that unquantifiable
"It" that you know once you hear it, but otherwise have
a hard time describing. In past years, it's been Inouk, Echobrain,
Single Frame, Fiery Furnaces, etc. And then there was
a lull, a lull which subsequently became a drought. Did music start
to suck again? Had David lost his touch for feeling out the CDs that
were best suited to me? Was there something I was missing by virtue
of the fact that I live in a backwater cultural void (aka Colorado
Springs), something marvelous that I failed to capture in my paltry
seine? Had I lost my ability to appreciate music in general? Even
SXSW was a considerable disappointment this year, that left the thought
bubble exclaiming "Seriously, WTF?" permanently affixed
above my head.
But then I got Manners Matter, and things look a little differently
now, if but for the moment. XTC and the Beach Boys are
the press kit comparisons dutifully regurgitated by other lazy sods,
but the most obvious comparison has been woefully missed by all but
the most diligent of critics: The Beatles. There are times
where the album sounds like it fell out of the sheet music for Sgt.
Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, or perhaps consisted of riffs
and stanzas cobbled from the cutting room floor from that album's
edits. There are maybe a half dozen moments from another band that
was once described as "The Beatles gone disco", the oft-maligned
Electric Light Orchestra. I didn't recognize the presence at first;
it was in the 4th track, but then my brain began trying to resolve
the familiarity. I had a bar or two to work from, and a hazy memory
of a song I probably last heard in 1982, or thereabouts. ELO came
to mind rather quickly, as did The Moody Blues' Long Distance
Voyager; the Beatles-esque sound mixed with Beach Boys catchy-pop
brought forth a reminisce of Inouk, and the carefree disregard for
convention and structure made me recall the Fiery Furnaces, so ELO
was discarded once I couldn't match the only song of theirs I knew
to the song I was hearing and the one I thought I was trying to remember.
But once someone else mentioned them, the theory gained a little credence,
and off I went Amazoning for the Rosetta I sought.
It may seem like too much work to go through all that just to track
down one reference, but that's the sort of thing that makes this job
fun: when an album forces you to write about it by digging a little
further, even if you don't like the music at hand. But for the record,
Manners Matter could've justifiably been called Music That
Matters. With silly and fun lyrics like "hetchie hootchie footchie"
or "I am living in a monster truck", and lyrics that quickly
convey striking imagery with a modicum of description: "The curled
lip, the straight fang. The game face", "A dinner for two
consumed by one", or "Drawbridge and collagen snapshot motels."
Others yet seem like errant bon mots, even when extracted from the
dense, daisy-chained stream of wordplay: "Lust is such a polished
gem", "long vacations pose a danger to our workday",
"We sold the kids new ways to think", and many more that
I've yet failed to recognize. If witty wordplay tickles your tympanum,
then this is one you won't want to pass up.
Check out more
e-mail the chief
Like this article?
it to a friend!