The English Softhearts - Double Platinum
Record Label: The Magic Spot Productions
Release Date: 2003
You pretty much know what you’re in for when you pop in an album and immediately you’re surrounded by chaotic feedback. First impressions are everything, right? But in the case of Double Platinum, forget everything you ever thought you knew about album formula, because there’s no way The English Softhearts were following any outlines in birthing this beast. Here’s a hint where you’re headed though: the title of the album is by no stretch of the imagination ever going to be something achieved by this band.
Double Platinum is like a David Lynch film: some people will absolutely love it and some people will absolutely hate it, but everybody will be confused. Sonically pranking like Ween without a budget, The English Softhearts succeed in their abstract attempts at humor-rock because they lay down equal parts catchy minimal melody (hear the keyboard part in “Charttoppers”), noisy feedback crunch (“Romance, Intimacy”), and completely pointless would-be-filler-if-it-wasn’t-hilarious (“Top Forty Drum Sound”). Much better musically than other babbling humor groups like King Missile (who sang “Detachable Penis”), these guys obviously have the capabilities of making normal music. They just don’t want to.
The album clocks in at about a half hour strategically, as the group was probably aware that any longer and they might overstep the boundaries between goofy and annoying. It might be difficult to digest twenty more minutes of big pseudo-Genesis drums and repetitive quotes like “They used to snort frogs to get high” (specifically I’m talking about the song “I’m So Ready I Don’t Wanna Do It”). Nah, the album keeps inside its own limitations, playing out no longer than the length of a seizure or two. The English Softhearts don’t overstay their welcome like Ween did on The Pod, and thus the set never gets boring.
Back to the aforementioned huge drums, though. The skins are a major focus here and are very upfront in the mix not unlike TV on the Radio’s signature percussive grooves. Drummer and vocalist Marc Bubblebath pretty much takes over the album, especially on “Cutie Can in Pink and Yellow” and the either best or worst closing track ever, “Top Forty Drum Sound” which is just three minutes of Bubblebath listing his favorite bands over a steady beat.
Like any abstract art, this machine seems to be built on the spot (you can hear the guys cracking up a few times). Besides the fact the lyrics are plain dumb, Bubblebath switches his vocal tone here and there for shits and giggles. On “Rebel Rider” he sounds like AdRock from the Beastie Boys (note this lyric though: “I don’t like no Beastie Boys”). On “Top Forty Drum Sound” he’s a gruff Motorhead-type. It takes no thought to listen to (in the good way) and it took no thought to make (also in the good way).
A lot of critics (I’m thinking of Jim DeRogatis) get hung up on what a band has to say and the specific content of the lyrics. Lines like “I wanna throw you off the top of the Empire State Building” and “What color are your grey pants? / I can’t keep up with such things” are not going to win Nobel prizes, but pointless or not they suit the music, and they’re fun. Underrated and overlooked, The English Softhearts deserve to be acknowledged, and they ought to go on tour with Ween.