Bad Cop: Is this couplecore?
Good Cop: From the band lineup – Maya Klein on keys and her husband Jay on guitars – you might think so, but I wouldn’t call this band couplecore at all. Couplecore is rich brats from LA singing about riding the Ikea bus together. With you around I’m probably not going to get away with this, but I’d call Guess and Check indie pop.
Bad Cop: We’ll see about that. Let’s get the formalities out of the way. Their album is called, um, Entanglement. It’s on Bandcamp. They’re playing the Knitting Factory tomorrow night, the twelfth, at 8. I think cover is ten bucks and if you’re going, I wouldn’t stress, shows at the Knit don’t usually sell out.
Good Cop: OK, let’s run the tracks. Lucy Relax is the first one. You know what, I think this song is about a cat.
Bad Cop: Explain.
Good Cop: Well, it’s like something you’d say to a cat. Cats are asleep for so much of their lives that when they’re actually awake, they’re insane. And then you have to say, “Lucy, RELAX!!!” And Lucy isn’t the kind of name you’d give a person anyway. Unless like maybe you were French.
Bad Cop: “We’d never let you come to harm,” hmmm, you may have a point. A blue-eyed soul tinge to the vocals. You know, this reminds me of something from ten years ago. Or maybe earlier. Nice production – drums back in the mix, growly bass, some intertwining guitar lines. Catchy without being cloying.
Good Cop: That’s Barry Ickow on drums and Shayna Lewis on bass. Good song, good start to the album.
Bad Cop: Track two. Antidote. Reminds me of Erika Simonian‘s solo stuff before Little Silver. Good lyrics too. When’s the last time you heard someone use both “parse” and “absolution” in a song, at least one that was good?
Good Cop: I could see the Decemberists doing that.
Bad Cop: But they suck.
Good Cop: True. And this doesn’t sound anything like that anyway. Penny Lane but with new wave values.
Bad Cop: A happy pop song about being poisoned. I’m not supposed to say this, but I’m starting to really like this band.
Good Cop: Careful with that business of breaking character, you don’t want to get us into trouble. Now track three, Changeling, sounds a lot like that last one.
Bad Cop: But even more new wave. That string synth – and is that an omnichord? Whoah. That would be cool.
Good Cop: Kinda disco beat but without the disco drumming. You know, the boom-swish, boom-swish on the cymbals.
Bad Cop: I could do without the b-vox. But this would have been a hit thirty years ago. You know, baseball season is coming up and I’m in a baseball mood. So I would say that this album is three for three so far. No home runs, and that last one was more of a bloop than a blast, but these guys can definitely write a song.
Good Cop: Yeah, I’m enjoying this. [nudges Bad Cop] You notice we’ve been getting better assignments here. And more of them.
Bad Cop: Don’t count your chickens. Track four is Wish I Could Dance. My answer to that complaint, just have a few more drinks.
Good Cop: More of that disco groove. Oscillating synth. Kind of jarring with the hip-hop vocal flavor.
Bad Cop: This is the guy singing. It just kills me when a band has a perfectly good lead singer and then some doofus has to take over the mic to sing his or her song. And this song sucks. I think they’re trying to be Bushwick. You know, twee or something.
Good Cop: I’m not supposed to agree with you but this one doesn’t really pick up until the bridge on the way out and by then it’s too late.
Bad Cop: OK. Three for four. This next one is the title track. Are you sure this isn’t couplecore? “We were left there naked and alive?” And I don’t like guys who sing like girls.
Good Cop: C’mon, he just has a soft voice. And he’s hitting all the notes. I like that kind of suspenseful pulse they have going on. This is a hit, you have to admit it.
Bad Cop: Started slow but it picked up, didn’t it? I like that. Dynamics. They didn’t just record a single verse and chorus and then loop them like all those indie bands do.
Good Cop: I’m with you on that. Track six is Letter. Now I can tell this is the kind of song you love. It’s so plainspoken but so well-crafted. And so sad. Reminds me of that band DollHouse that you told me about..
Bad Cop: I think this is a New York band. Not a Bushwick band or a Williamsburg band. Real New Yorkers. This song has that kind of edge, it doesn’t waste words, the singer is on her game, she lets the story tell itself. A home run, no question. Not a cheap Yankee Stadium flyball into the bullpen, either. What does this make the album? Five for six at this point.
Good Cop: Here’s track seven, Some DJ’s. Now I know you’re gonna love this one. I love how Jay Klein says “They’ll have some DJ’s,” so cold and sarcastic. Songs about bands trying to make it are usually dumb and boring but this one really captures a moment.
Bad Cop: Grand slam home run. Awww, I love this song. For so many reasons. If you are as mystified as I am that anyone would pay a cover charge to listen to whatever songs are on some random person’s phone, you will love this too. Six for seven.
Good Cop: Here’s track eight, Gone. Who’s this singing?
Bad Cop: That’s the drummer. OK, give the drummer some. Next.
Good Cop: C’mon, it’s not so bad.
Bad Cop: It’s not awful, it’s just meh. Drummer knows a little guitar, can fake his way through a tune, he’s been bugging the band to give him a turn on the mic, and you know with drummers, you can’t fuck with them. Drummers all play in about ten bands and if you don’t kiss their ass they’ll leave. And this guy’s a good drummer but I could do without this song. Six for eight.
Good Cop: OK, track nine, Hundred Waters. I like that creepy bass walk over the steady guitar chords. Postpunk.
Bad Cop: Now THAT’S an omnichord! Eerie verse, anthemic chorus, nice contrast. Good song. And notice how few actual tracks there are on this song? For example, there’s about three for the keys, then just guitar, bass, drums and the vocals, lead and backups. No wasted notes. They really had an idea when they went into the studio with this.
Good Cop: “If you build a school like a prison, thoughts will never be sweet.” What a line. This is my favorite song on the album and I like almost all the rest too.
Bad Cop: Another home run. Seven for nine. I’m starting to think about maybe going to this show since the band is going on hiatus afterward.
Good Cop: Aw, that’s too bad! Just when they put out a really great album. How many times does that happen, huh?
Bad Cop: Ulrich Ziegler a couple of years ago, for one. Now this is track ten, Shelter. Biggest anthem here so far. Reverse image of the last song: big propulsive verse, little lullaby chorus.
Good Cop: A lot like that track you really liked a lot. You know, the DollHouse one.
Bad Cop: That was Letter. This is just as good, maybe better. Another homer. Although what it really needs, what I would love to hear right now, is a big slashing guitar solo.
Good Cop: Maybe they ran out of time in the studio. Or maybe they aren’t into big guitar solos.
Bad Cop: Or maybe nobody in the band can play one.
Good Cop: Don’t be so needlessly critical. Now there’s one more track, this is My God I Just Realized. Looks like we’re going back to the new wave.
Bad Cop: Ladies and gentlemen, it’s 1981 and this is the Mudd Club. I like how they trade off lines on the vocals on the verse. And there’s distortion on the guitar for once.
Good Cop: Looks like you were wrong about these guys not rocking out. And looks like we have a winner here. How would you rank this, nine for eleven?
Bad Cop: Yeah, that’s really raking. That’s an average that would never happen in real baseball – unless steroids were involved. It never ceases to amaze me how many good bands like this there are out there that just slip through the cracks.
Good Cop: Would you say that this is one of the best albums you’ve heard this year?
Bad Cop: Now let me put this in perspective, I’m not big on pop music as you know. But these guys won me over. The tunes are simple, terse, crystallized, and catchy as hell. You can understand the lyrics and better yet, the lyrics are usually pretty good. I have some issues with the vocals…
Good Cop: When do you NOT have issues with the vocals?
Bad Cop: That Byzan-tones concert we saw. That band plays instrumentals.
Good Cop: My point exactly. I can’t wait to see what the blog has for us to do next! Remember the days when the only thing we’d ever get to review was organ jazz cds? What a long way we’ve come since then!
Bad Cop: Don’t hold your breath. We could be on the shuttle back to Columbus…
Good Cop: You mean Scranton.
Bad Cop: I still can’t get used to Scranton being a Yankees farm team. Just can’t. Anyway, see you on the train.