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Between The Slats

Falsetto bubblegum pop? You had me at hello

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I like big falsettos and I cannot lie, though you other brothers might deny. After the gratuitous dick-around, not-really-a-song-just-some-noisy-crap-we-liked intro track on the Slats’ new album, The Great Plains of San Francisco, the Cedar Rapids, Iowa trio comes up huge with “The Weapon That I Used,” a raw and grubby bit of falsetto-ridden bubblegum that had me at hello. Not pure bubblegum—more like gum with pieces of lunch chewed up in it—but just insanely catchy and fruity-smelling. Weezer just wish they could still write songs like this!

It’s amazing how just a couple of elements can either scuttle a song or send it soaring into the dork-pop stratosphere. If the guitar solo were even slightly less skuzzy, or if the song didn’t end on such an abrupt note of rockus interruptus, “The Weapon That I Used” could easily be mistaken for another sanitized slice of radio-friendly pop-punk by a number-name band wearing My First Punk Outfit ™ bought at the local strip mall. But it’s so good. I can’t stop listening to it and it’s driving me nuts.

So the band calls me up, right, and I tell them a little fib. I give myself a professional allotment of one per week when I don’t feel like dealing with something. Usually, it just amounts to me saying I’m not in when I really am—button, button, who’s got the button. I fibbed to the Slats and told them I didn’t think I’d have time to get around to it, because frankly, I get a dozen or more CDs a week in white business envelopes with press releases telling me that this or that band is totally amazing and original and if someone like me could just take a minute to care, they’re going to be one of the big three names come Christmas. And I usually just laugh and make fun of the band photo. Or make a fort behind my desk with some blankets and pillows and take a little nap.

But in this case I just hadn’t gotten around to listening to it yet, and am I ever glad I did! Here’s one interesting tidbit that came with the Slats’ one-sheet: “The album is the brainchild of auteur-savant Brian Cox (guitar/vocal), who records and produces his own music like a broken perfectionist. In piecing together this album, Cox drew upon the ideas and performances of eight or nine different musicians, including Seattle-based indie-rock producer Kurt Bloch (The Fastbacks, Young Fresh Fellows). While the results veer from synthy pop to skronky guitar noise, most of the time the texture is warm and sparse, highlighting Cox’s unique lyrics, which evoke indelible images...” blah, blah, blah, and after that it’s not so interesting.

But did they have to spoil it with words? When I hear a song like “The Weapon That I Used,” or the string of dirty dazzlers that follows it, the last thing I want to find out is that it’s the “brainchild” or something of just one guy. I want to stay warm and dry in my delusion that three or more people can come together and rub brains to make such deliciously botched-up pop without one individual stepping Darwinianly forward to take the credit for it. Chopped liver, anyone? I always like it when bands eschew individual songwriting credits in their liner notes in favor of “all songs by [band name here],” even if it’s no secret that one guy in the band is the real Encyclopedia Brown of the bunch. It’s depressing to read grabby credits, especially when one member wrote everything except the one song that he co-wrote with one other member and credits with that member’s name. After his own, of course, e.g., “All songs by Slappy McSlapsalot, except (*) by Slapsalot/Hoseclamp.” All this might sound petty or neurotic to you, but I dwell on stuff like this. I’m a defender of democracy, and anal songwriting credits always strike me as the first step toward band tyranny.

So that kind of stunk up the afterglow for me. But I threw the one-sheet away and I’m hoping to forget I ever read it. Read what? Exactly. You know how sometimes people forget things after they bump their heads? Wouldn’t it be nice if you knew just where to bump your head to forget one minor depressing aspect of an otherwise enjoyable experience? There’s this thing I keep hearing about, called “beer,” that some people say has the same affect with repeated applications. Say, that reminds me... 

The Slats play Jay’s Upstairs Wednesday, June 5 at 10 PM. Cover TBA.

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