Thursday, November 5, 2009

Lil' Beethoven (2002)

Not exactly classical, but it provides a vaguely classical patina to traditional Sparksiana--no traditional pop songs, use of classical rather than rock instruments. You couldn't call it "classical" in any deep sense, but it's definitely different, and sees the Maels really innovating for the first time in a long time. I'm not as taken with it as a lot people are, but it's nice to see them pushing boundaries again.

There's a lot of repetition here, lyrically, and it only sort of works. "My Baby's Taking Me Home" consists of nothing but the title phrase repeated eighteen thousand times (with a brief spoken-word interlude in the middle). It's hard to imagine it being anyone's favorite. "Your Call Is Very Important to Us. Please Hold." works better than you'd think, considering that it mostly consists of "First she said: 'your call is very important to us.' And then she said: 'please hold, please hold.'" "The Rhythm Thief" is so good that you don't even notice that it's somewhat lyrically limited. It's a thrilling song with a great conceit: "I am the Rhythm Thief. Say goodbye to the beat." The chorus of "Oh, no! Where did the groove go?" is pretty darned funny, but keep in mind that "you'll never get it back. You'll never get it back. The Rhythm Thief has got it and you'll never get it back."

Actually, writing this, I'm sort of convincing myself that maybe I like it better than I had realized. "Ride 'em Cowboy" is an undeniable classic, super-melodramatic with these cool, minimalistic couplets about falling from grace ("From 'you're for me'/To 'ça suffit'/From bon vivant/To sycophant/From open door/To merde alors). The "ride em cowboy ride em (get back on again)" refrain is also excellent. This one's a real winner.

Also notable: "Ugly Guys with Beautiful Girls," a mostly-spoken-word thing that doesn't seem like much of a song, but which is pretty great anyway, with the over-the-top intellectual detachment of its lyrics about the title phenomenon. Given that it was written by guys in their fifties, "Suburban Homeboy" is a surprisingly incisive/funny song about privileged white kids trying to act like 50 Cent ("I am a suburban homeboy with a suburban ho right by my side/I am a suburban homeboy and I say 'yo, dawg' to my pool cleaning guy").

Anyway, I recommend this in a general way. Nice to see that they've woken up.

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