Reggie and the Full Effect - No Country for Old Musicians
Record Label: Pure Noise Records
Release Date: November 19, 2013
I’m not sure if my music-journalist instincts have ever been more confused than the first time I listened to No Country for Old Musicians. There were songs I loved, songs I couldn’t stand, songs that made me laugh out loud on my own and songs that made me want to give myself a good ol' fashioned face-palm.
Perhaps it’s because I was never around to anticipate the release of a new Reggie and the Full Effect record; in fact, I was only four years old when Greatest Hits 1984 - 1987 was first released, and even by the time Songs Not to Get Married To rolled around in 2005, I was gleefully spinning records like Linkin Park’s Hybrid Theory and a burnt copy of Queen’s Greatest Hits every morning on my way to middle school. Luckily for myself and anyone reading this, several incidents that Samuel L. Jackson might label as ‘divine intervention’ occurred throughout my angsty pre-teen years, including my discovery of Yellowcard, the All-American Rejects and, oddly enough, Modest Mouse. I would rifle through my brother’s record collection, searching for the next piece of cover art that would decidedly change my tastes in music forever. And one of these records, proving to be game-changing for more than just those familiar with the scene, happened to be the Get Up Kids’ Something to Write Home About.
But alas, this is not a review for the latest GUK record, but rather keyboardist James Dewees’ now landmark solo career- Reggie and the Full Effect- and the return to form he provides us with after a five-year hiatus, in the form of No Country for Old Musicians. The record plays out like a legitimate ‘Greatest Hits’ compilation, showcasing everything Reggie and the Full Effect has become known for over the past 15 years. Just when you feel like the banjo-laden introduction of a title track proves that things have truly turned around for Dewees, the tune crashes into “Super Croc vs. Mega Doosh”, an immediate standout as aggressive as anything from Last Stop: Crappy Town. The song carries with it a heavy My Chemical Romance vibe, possibly due to Dewees becoming their touring keyboardist from The Black Parade forward or the best friend/bandmate relationship now held by Dewees and MCR guitarist Frank Iero. While fast and furious, Dewees strays from the harsh screaming found throughout Last Stop, and by the time you move forward to the goofy and infectious, “37”, we realize how much sobriety has done for James Dewees as both a musician and a person.
The joke tracks are back, and they’re…longer...than ever. “Guerrera” plays like a Native American/Western theme that explodes into a nu-metal jam featuring evil prophecy and aliens. “Robo Fonzie Meets Frank” lands with the absurdity of a classic Reggie joke, while “We Make Breakfast”may be Dewees at his best, performing insanity-inducing harmonies and feeling like an over-the-top sitcom theme song. Longtime fans are even treated to an old-school chicken track (“Foulin’ Around”). So where do the real songs land? Well, most of the substance contained throughout No Country's duration is just as bizarre as its interludes, meeting varying results. “Revenge is a Dish Best Served at Park Chan-Wook’s House” sounded like regression the first time I listened to it, but Dewees’ well-known knack for hooks that blend keyboards and distorted guitar as well as his blatant lyricism (detailing everything Dewees going to do to you, inspired by Korean-revenge films) transforms this into the kind of song that should become a staple at future Reggie shows. The same unforgettable approach to melody is front and center throughout the choruses of “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Ralph’s”, in which Dewees sings all about his “crazy fucking neighbors”. His trademark brand of emotion doused in humor has never been sharper, most apparent in lines like “Well I’ve been here too long, and I’ve just gotta say/If I was in better shape, I’d run so far away/’Cause if I stay, it will be the end of me/I think you all should know: the farmer’s market sucks/Who buys shitty flowers for a hundred bucks?/And oh God, look, it’s a candle guy.” Not every song is as on-point, varying from the forgettable (“Kanji Tattoos…Still in Style??”) to the just plain obnoxious (“Gimme Back My Leg”). Luckily, all is forgiven in the five-minute ballad that is “Disregard”, containing the kind of rare, unbridled emotion we’ve come to appreciate from Dewees.
I’ve always said that there are two kinds of records that you’re guaranteed to get your money’s worth for: hip-hop releases, and Modest Mouse releases (mostly because you’re usually guaranteed to get 15+ songs with either of the two). It seems I should now add Reggie and the Full Effect to that piece advice, because with 19 tracks, No Country for Old Musicians is a towering record. With that much content, you’re almost guaranteed to experience some filler, but that’s the beauty here; there’s something for every kind of Reggie fan. Whether you’re strictly business or here to stay and enjoy the jokes, you won’t leave disappointed. Fans of Fluxuation get whipped cream all over their bodies in “Sundae, Booty Sundae”, and we even get a new guest star in the form of Ke$ha's male counterpart: 'Floppy Disk-0', featured throughout "Who Wants Another Drank". Common Denominator followers are bound get a kick out of the group’s fourth (and heaviest) excursion yet (“DMV”), as well as No Country's self-professed “secret song” which just finds Klaus screaming the names of those who funded the record’s Kickstarter. Indeed, this is the people’s record; those who funded are getting what they paid for, and that is a collection of brand new songs that further solidify James Dewees’ place as a staple of early 00’s punk and emo culture. While half of the songs may leave you scratching your head, we both know you wouldn’t have it any other way, and with that, I am proud to say that Reggie is back- “in fucking full effect.”