Monday, September 18, 2006

Sprites and the Music Lovers- smarty-pants for their own good

Want to impress a scribe? Piece of cake. Just toss us some turn of phrase, some clever lines and flex your smarts. We'll eat out the palm of your hand. Hey, we're a cheap date, we admit it and that's why we salivate over Bob Dylan and other literate folks. Even the indie world goes cuckoo over say Magnetic Fields, Mountain Goats and such. If the music happens to be good also, it's a nice bonus. Maybe that's why I'm so enchanted by two fine new releases from two bands that barely even make it into indie shops now.

With UK combo The Music Lovers, singer Matthew Edwards plays the soon-to-be-jilted lover, stuck in the past with bad relationships and his worship of 60's power-pop, which is bad for the former but good in the later. He also likes to drop hints about his grey matter- he did call his band the Music Lovers, after all. The Music Lovers' Guide For Young People isn't just a cute album title but it's even a song title, which might be taking his brainy conceits too far but there, he advises the little ones to base their life on a "cheap pop song" (just like many of us have already). On the first song, he toasts Cornelius Cardew and speaks of his Marxist gal-pals a little more subtly than Stereolab dropping the same kind of propaganda in their lyrics. Maybe because Edwards is more cynical, he's less sunny than the 'Lab but still hooking his career to "cheap pop songs" (they did title their first record Cheap Songs Tell the Truth, which means that they're masters of self-deprecation as much as Woody Allen) . Again, I say "good for him!" especially when he turns his anger into good rock momentum on "Habit" or "Alan Lake" (after a Brit actor who committed suicide). At his best, he's got down pat the wit and self-flagellation of Morrissey at his best. The only problem then is that he might be a little too smart for his own good As the Drive-By Truckers could tell him, leaning hard on self-conscious knowledge gets you recognized but it makes it hard to build a huge fan base.

Sprites take a different tact to show off their smarts. In this DC combo, Jason Korzen comes on as the ambitious nerd on his second album Modern Gameplay (Darla Records). Like They Might Be Giants, he likes to show off his tunefulness but picks more obvious references than Edwards, titling one song "George Romero" (a great post-acopalyspe song up there with Postal Service's "We Will Become Silhouettes"). But anyone who also pens a bright, catchy tune called "Me and the Sysop" or the instant sympathy-getter "I Started A Blog Nobody Read" (where Dubya is tagged as "an evil moron" and he threatens to list his 100 favorite albums) is reaching out to geeks more than mopey Moz wanna-be's though like Edwards, he does love his breezy pop for sure. Even his voice has a lovably nerdy twang to it and if you sometimes think you've heard his songs before that might mean he's a great hook-smith or that like Ray Davies, he's at least stealing from the best. Either way, the guy's catchy new wave pop is winning and no, his grey matter doesn't stand in the way of you appreciating it either, especially when he wonders out loud "who do I have to sleep with to DJ in this town?"

Y0u can hear some of the Sprites album at their MySpace page. Ditto for the Music Lovers and their album is also available at Darla.


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