Electric Owls - Ain't Too Bright
Record Label: Vagrant Records
Release Date: May 5, 2009
Back in January, I posted a blog recommending the eclectic debut EP by the new Vagrant Records band Electric Owls, featuring Andy Herod, also of The Comas. Just a few days later, I submitted a review for Your World on Fire, the latest album by metalcore band In Fear and Faith. The bands have nothing at all in common, so who could foresee the "controversy" that would arise a few months later when the cover art Electric Owls chose for their full-length release Ain't Too Brightwas nearly identical to that of Your World on Fire? It's an odd coincidence, and probably not even worth noting were I not utterly desperate for a way to open this review without going through the same old motions.
Ain't Too Bright (aren't you just asking for it when you give your album a title like this?) contains three of the EP's four songs along with seven others, most of them hook-filled and displaying a miscellany of influences. There are shades of Peter Gabriel's "Solsbury Hill," Rush's "The Spirit of Radio," The Alarm's "Rain in the Summertime," and Neutral Milk Hotel's "The King of Carrot Flowers, Part 1" -- and that's just on the opener "Magic Show," which uses buzzing prog-rock synths, spacy ambience and a shiny pop melody, an interesting mix indeed. The song's theatricality parallels its "the whole world's a stage" theme quite well.
Musically, the songs venture all over the map, from bouncy indie-pop ("Halloween Mask"), pastoral folk ("Darken Me"), grandiose arena rock ("Kamiakin"), and bluegrassy Southern rock ("Haint in the Holler"), all of which are suitable for toe-tapping, head-bobbing, or just humming along with a blank smile. "Magic Show" is the only track that says anything discernible lyrically, as everything else, seemingly in an attempt to keep up with the album's hodgepodge of styles, seems to be an exercise in ADD-addled stream-of-consciousness with the occasional drug reference thrown in, which perhaps explains it all. I suppose it's an indication that a band doesn't intend to be taken too seriously when their song titles include puns ("Us Weakly"), classic comical movie quotes ("Put, the Candle, Back!"), and references to people who eat other people ("Cannibal Superstar") -- well, unless the band is The Devil Wears Prada.
On Electric Owls' profile on Vagrant Records' website, Herod is quoted as saying, "We are going completely over the top with a few ideas and itís been unbelievably satisfying and fun. Hopefully that is what people will experience when they listen to the end result, too." Because the album lacks anything unifying, and because songs are either cryptic or not intended to have any particular meaning at all -- either way they're impenetrable -- satisfying isn't a word I'd choose to describe Ain't Too Bright. With songs as infectious as these, though, it's hard to deny the fun factor.