The inside cover of Electric Needle Room's Trying to Escape the Bigotry lists the definition of "Bigot" as "any person who is utterly intolerant of a differing creed, belief, or opinion." Once this definition has been stated, the band leaves you with a simple question: are members/brothers Matt and Steven Beat bigots themselves?
The answer (thankfully) is a resounding yes. Quirky, irrelevant, and utterly satirical while still maintaining a lighthearted sense of tomfoolery, Bigotry is exactly the kind of tongue-in-cheek fun I've come to expect from this duo. Their last album, 2004's My Socks Don't Match, was gently layered synth pop that walked some ironic tightrope between complete goofiness and legitimate sadness. Several years later, ENR have upped the ante considerably, with things being alternatively more dorky yet more serious as well. Did I mention that this stuff is well-crafted, hook-laden, sugary-sweet synth-pop of the highest order? Would-you-like-more-hyphens? No you wouldn't, and no I didn't, to answer both questions in reverse order. But in all honesty, this is a band that is pretty much the epitome of the goodness synth-pop can have.
Quiet guitar chords soon washed in wavering, gooey distortion is what you'll get from the start with "Everybody Wants Your Money," and what a fun start! This cut somehow combines infectious pop music with anti-taxation lines and catchy sing-alongs. The "awww-shucks" demeanor of my personal favorite song, "Nobody Cares About Me Anymore" works wonders; just try not to sing in your most depressive vocal imitation everytime you hear this angst-y beat festival of internet isolation. "Mediocre Bands" is so tongue-in-cheek it at times runs the risk of biting itself despite the joke, but the band mixes clever self-hate, twinkling piano lines, and grooving synth beats into a wonderful mix. The wistful "You Make Me Feel Sunny" is a folksy ballad about love and its redeeming powers; gentle and kind, it is definitely effective only when you feel as happy as the song itself. Regardless, it is good and has a measure of the Beatles' early, naive optimism to it. The downright-silly "All of My Ancestors Were Wrong" effectively blames human history for all the world's ills, which in all honesty is such a great idea for a synth-pop song I have no idea why no one has thought of it before. Shimmering and convicted, the song is oddly serious despite its whimsical nature, and shows the unique idenity this band will carve for itself slowly-but-surely over time.
"Hollywood" is a jangling keyboard ballad to channel surfing and old movies; nostalgic and fun, there is a very 90's feel to this...I could see it being a song on the Adventures of Pete & Pete soundtrack. The country-influenced "Middle of the Ocean" slowly ambles by in a decent but unremarkable pop-structure. Militant and with tons of repeated vocal lines, it is a bit too straightforward for its own good. The ratchet beats and general quirk of the toy-store music anthem that is "Give/Take" is an excellent piece of unique ideas, proof that to this day synths can still be forced into producing unusual or unexpected noises. "Bull Crap" kicks off with legitimate drums---just straight percussion!---before launching into a mix of jaunty anger and blissful disbelief. I'll leave the topic quiet so that some of you can be surprised, and trust me, it is a truly amusing one. "Here to Stay" is a twisting, taunting breeze of a song; it is so absurdly goofy it might be borderline irritating, but I think in a way that is part of the appeal---this is definitely one of those "guilty pleasure" type songs. The awesomely named "The Wicked Nosehair" is a psychedelic, lush ode to yes, a nosehair. A freakishly winding descent into Sgt. Pepper-worthy freakouts makes this one a surprisingly grand track, and an underdog fave to be sure. "Myspace.com" mocks everyone's favorite dirty obsession, and ironically captures all the retarded idiocy that that site has, while still focusing on the few things making it a worthwhile venture. "We Will Rewind" closes things with a sombering, poignant ballad focused more on quiet reflection and less on the band's earlier shenanigans. It ends the CD on a very professional note, and shows that if Electric Needle Room so wish they could move well beyond the chuckle-pop that is their forte.
All-in-all, good stuff. Electric Needle Room have something for everyone; the quaint independence of indie cred, the well-produced sheen of radio-friendly pop, the experimental quirk of legitmate avant-garde sensations---Hell, they even throw in casio keys! This odd mix of serious music and biting/sarcastic lyrical satire is a potent one indeed, and here's hoping that Electric Needle Room don't Escape the Bigotry anytime soon.
released January 30, 2007
Matt Beat, Steven Beat
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