Thursday, November 30, 2006
BEN FOLDS | Supersunnyspeedgraphic—The LP | Epic
This literate (and proud of it) semi-indie icon cleans out the barrel with this (mercifully) short collection of experiments with his pals Ben Kweller and Ben Lee, oddball “ironic” covers, and a handful of wordy tracks. Despite the explanatory liner notes, its existence is a head scratcher in this day and age.
The CD isn’t quite the laugh riot Folds thinks it is anyway—the Dr. Dre rap set to minimalist piano/ornate harmonies is a chuckle as an idea, but its execution leaves one wondering why they even bothered. Ditto the Darkness cover, but not the Cure tune. Folds, like so many collegiates before him, adores the self-absorbed vamps that are the sum and substance of Robert Smith’s output.
Folds plays capable piano and sings in that “I am being funny” tone immortalized by the Nails, Bare-Naked Ladies and They Might Be Giants before him. His piano playing sets him apart, but as this CD full of goofs and pisstakes proves, it doesn’t make him attractive enough to be a fan of. Skip this.—Johnny Angel
THE TROLLEYVOX | The Trolleyvox Present the Karaoke Meltdowns | Transit of Venus
If you like your power pop sweet and shiny and more than a little bit silly, the Trolleyvox is the band for you. The Philadelphia-based quartet, whose ranks have swelled and contracted over the group’s decade-long career, delivers hooky, anthemic, mildly eccentric guitar rock dosed with girl-group vocals, nonsensical lyrics, and oddball instrumentation. It’s a combination that’s bound to elicit comparisons to the fearsomely great New Pornographers, which is unfortunate, because the Trolleyvox can’t help but come up short: Guitarist/songwriter Andrew Chalfen doesn’t have A.C. Newman’s genius for melody, and singer Beth Filla lacks Neko Case’s prodigious, pitch-perfect range. A more realistic, if obscure, touchstone might be Let’s Active, Mitch Easter’s whimsical ’80s-era jangle-pop outfit, to which the Trolleyvox once paid tribute with a cover of “Crows on a Phone Line.”
All quibbling aside, there’s plenty to admire on the Trolleyvox’s third full-length, The Trolleyvox Present the Karaoke Meltdowns. Filla’s voice has a bright insouciance that makes Chalfen’s often-impenetrable lyrics seem more accessible. Chalfen’s fretwork sparkles on such cuts as “Onion Is Missing,” which boasts a bent little hook reminiscent of Television and a stunning psychedelic coda. At times the mid-tempo ballads drag a bit, but fizzy concoctions such as “I Am Annabelle” and “I Know That You’re High” produce a sugar rush so intoxicating that you just might welcome the brief reprieve from catchiness. —Rene Spencer Saller
ROCK STAR SUPERNOVA | Supernova | Epic
The record industry officially died the day this project was signed off upon—that is, the industry as we’ve known it before.
The recorded sequel to the successful “metal American Idol” is not entirely without its merits from a musical POV. The winner of the beauty contest, Lukas Rossi, can in fact carry a tune and has chutzpah/panache. The backing band of megastars on the downsides of their respective careers do know their way around a studio. And Butch Walker knows his rock like no one else, with that T-Rex/Bowie imprint of his all over everything.
But this piece of history would never have seen the light of day had it not been appended to a TV show. It is nothing more than an extension of a major marketing effort.
Supernova is a tossed-off piece of insider maneuvering and ordinary songs played by musicians (Tommy Lee, Gilbey Clarke, Jason Newstead) that are either bored, broke or spotlight-horny. —Johnny Angel