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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
Everybody Uh Oh
Man Am I Brad
Arborvitae Records

Rating: NR/10 ?

October 1, 2004
Swimming through the ocean of new albums released every week and sent in for review, there are two islands that generally break the surface. One is the speck of land that is bands that have a distinctive sound - the bands full of weirdness like Deerhoof and Cerberus Shoal and the Microphones. Then there is the mountain of bands that pour out of a million different stereos every day and just sort of melt together, bands like the Stripes and the Strokes and the hordes of punk and acoustic musicians that are virtually indistinguishable from their peers. It isn't often that the waters in between are occupied, but that is where one can find Everybody Uh Oh, bobbing aimlessly like a strange buoy of indie rock. A group of twenty-something college kids, Everybody Uh Oh do a pretty competent job of putting a slight spin on the bands they grew up on- the bands that I grew up on, too.

I remember reading a review of Yo La Tengo's breakout album Painful from the early 90s that explained how they "explored the extremes of feedback-driven noise-rock and sweetly melodic pop, shading their work with equal parts scholarly composure and fannish enthusiasm". Man Am I Brad echoes those sentiments perfectly, but with perhaps less verbiage and not so much scholarly composure. They don't really pull any new tricks, but they don't exactly regurgitate the clichés verbatim; what they do is enthusiastically project the mixed signals of their musical past that are banging around in their head.

I wouldn't dare say that Man Am I Brad is stellar, because it isn't, but it is a record of good songs that only suffers from its lack of refinement, which oddly enough is what makes it memorable in the first place. Each track stands apart from the next, but as a complication they don't fit that well together either. The opening track "Eunice" is a mopey, ethereal bedroom pop composition that I wish I could get my alarm clock to play every morning as I pry my crusty eyelids from the jaws of sleep. It lets the cheery morning light of most of the album creep in softly like the dawn, easing into the album with a warm blanket of reverb as a few spry notes flutter about from the keyboard and into the dew outside the window. "Serious Mode" quickly follows up, its emo-esque pop easily the most spriteful on the album, a light but cookie cutter drum beat bopping a bit flat in the mix. Then on the third track, the oddly named "s/t" (not sure if that means "Everybody Uh Oh" or "Man Am I Brad") downshifts again, a fuzzy drone coating the drum machine beats, Jeremy Keller's vocals about banks and the stock market mixed high over the picking of acoustic guitars. It is one of the more interesting arrangements on the album, but it doesn't flow well either, and the album flounders a bit without any sense of progression. It wasn't until I took the advice of a friend of the band and "rocked it on the headphones" that Man Am I Brad began to sink in for what it is - an intimate collection of moody college rock that can cause fans of OK Go to turn their heads and quite possibly bring Ira Kaplan to his knees with songs like "U Pizzatron".

I'm not sure if the songs were simply written independently of each other or if poor sequencing is to blame, but Man Am I Brad is hard to get into despite being littered with standout tracks like "Champaign's Too Bright" with it's Gish-era Smashing Pumpkins worshiping and the eerie/cheery "Death". Throw in another somber number like the opener in "The Long Band" followed up by a peppy closer and things can get pretty jumbled. Sort of a less refined version of Elf Power and the whole Elephant Six distorted-pop approach, I can definitely tell where Everybody Uh Oh is coming from, but Man Am I Brad leaves it hard to get a feel for where they're going.

Reviewed by Monique LeBreau

See other reviews by Monique LeBreau



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