Sunday, April 22, 2012

Repetition Saves The Uninvited (I’m So Irked At Myself Right Now!)

The Good: Quirky, Weird, Original, Catchy tunes, Diverse sound
The Bad: SHORT! Awful rhyme schemes
The Basics: Funny, original and very catchy with the musical accompaniment The Uninvited is a surprise winner from a band I’d never heard of!

There are certain standards I have for myself as a reviewer and sometimes I hate myself for them. Right now the reason for that is because I find myself recommending something that a few hours ago I know I would not have. Here’s the standard I have a problem with: I listen to every c.d. I review at least eight times before I review it. Well, the local library recently got in a boat load of c.d.s and as I sit working on my online store and writing reviews, I figured I’d listen to some music so I didn’t have to buy it. As the c.d.s that didn’t sell over the holiday break gather dust, I am listening to them and writing about them. It’s almost clever. Well, last night, I put in The Uninvited by the band The Uninvited and I said to myself, “This absolutely stinks . . . I hope I don’t listen to it so much that it numbs me to that fact!”


Even as the first listen was coming to an end, there were certain tracks I was grooving to and I was thinking that this band sounds a lot like early “They Might Be Giants” (Then reviewed here!). The Uninvited on The Uninvited are R.E.M. without the social conscience. Yes, I can see how The Uninvited has an independent bent like R.E.M. does. And yes, after nine (going on ten) listens to the whole album, I’m not neglecting the terrible lyrics, the nasal vocals or the overproduced-to-be-catchy instrumental hooks, but I am recommending The Uninvited to anyone who likes quirky, truly independent and alternative rock and roll. The Uninvited is funny, weird and annoyingly memorable. It’s a shame they weren’t commercially successful (the band stopped making music in 2002 from what I can find).

With a dozen songs occupying forty-five and a half minutes on compact disc The Uninvited is distinctly the work of the California quartet The Uninvited. All of the songs are written by the band, they provide their own vocals and play their own instruments. In fact, they are even involved with the production of the album (they are co-producers). In other words, this is very much the intended musical vision of The Uninvited.

And that musical vision is exceptionally diverse. The first track is big band swing pop (like Big Bad Voodoo Daddies or The Brian Setzer Orchestra), the second – “What God Said” is arguably straightforward Christian rock (as is “Ordinary Man” at the end). But then there’s “Too High For The Supermarket” which, my partner who is traditionally into Christian pop-rock, would never appear on a Christian rock album (yes, it’s about getting high and going shopping). The songs sound a lot more creative than the average guitar/bass/drums combo groups on the radio station and the analogy to early They Might Be Giants is a good one.

The reason for this is the vocals. The lead vocals are performed by the Taylor brothers, John and Steve. They produce the vocals on songs like “Is That Me?” to be well in front of the instrumental accompaniment so they may be very clearly understood. And while that sounds like a very traditional pop-rock track, “Young And Beautiful” is so nasal in the vocals that they sound like they are from They Might Be Giants lead singer John Flansburgh. This, at the very least, makes the vocals memorable and while they are clear (mostly tenor) they are basically the medium for the ridiculous messages of the lyrics.

Here is where The Uninvited got me. Unlike most small bands that are trying to get their big break at any cost, The Uninvited happily bucks that trend by attacking the Hollywood ideals with songs like “Young And Beautiful.” Indeed, there is some beautiful musical satire in the lines “All my young and beautiful friends / They don’t care if the world’s gonna end / They don’t have zits and they’re all high paid / They have fresh breath and they always get laid . . .They all drink beer but they never throw up / They all smoke cigarettes but they’ve got clean lungs” (“Young And Beautiful”). The song is funny, catchy and entirely disarming, even without the repetition.

This is not to say all of the songs are writing gold. In fact, the lyrics are pretty split with me because the rhyme schemes like “Too high for the supermarket / Ain’t gonna shop like this no more / Sixteen different brands of tuna / Chicken of the Sea or Big Kahuna / Packed in oil packed in water / Dolphin friendly dolphin slaughter / Oh God, what about the bread? / Should I get white or wheat instead / Or rye! Rye’s the best I tasted / Rye is best whenever you’re wasted” (“Too High For The Supermarket”). The rhymes are often obvious, catchy and use a low level of diction so anyone can enjoy them (though stoners will have no problem). In fact, I loathe drugs and drug culture, but the frequent drug references on The Uninvited did not bother me excessively.

And the moment I knew I didn’t care how the rhymes were predictable was with the first refrain of “Down In Flames.” This song is a “young and stupid” anthem and when they sing “When I go down I’m going down in flames / Like a falling star like a crashing plane / When I go down I’m going down in flames / Like Captain Kirk saving the world again” (“Down In Flames”) with a groovy, almost Country twang to it, I was hooked. Damn them! And the band even does their own weird version of a love song with “Velcro Heart.”

Anyone who likes pop rock, but is not limited to the usual themes of love and loss will find The Uninvited funny, fun and worth picking up, even if they have to listen to it twice to convince themselves to shell out the fifty cents the library wants for it!

The best track is “Young And Beautiful,” the low point is “Rose Street,” which left no impression on me.

For other quirky albums or singles, be sure to visit my reviews of:
Good News For People Who Like Bad News - Modest Mouse
Everybody - Ingrid Michaelson
The Dresden Dolls - The Dresden Dolls


Check out how this album stacks up against other albums and singles by visiting my Music Review Index Page where the reviews are organized by quality of the work!

© 2012, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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