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Shmat's Reviews
For more reviews, please visit Palebear which is where all future Shmat reviews will appear (as of March 2006).

California (CD)

Stalwart Apples in Stereo, Gerbils, and Elf Power fans fear not! Your favorite Elephant Six Collective bands have not in fact moved to Japan and taken up residence there. Although Shmat thinks you wouldn't know it from the sunny but jumbled up songs on Elekibass's California disc. This is sixteen songs of circus marching band pop overseen by Youiti Sakamoto's admirable take on Robert Schneider's twee-beach boys falsetto. The oompah loompahs are out in force everywhere on this album and though the goofiness factor might scare away some pure pophearts, the songs are a lot of fun.

Shmat liked the tracks like "You Share the Same Heart In Theory" and "Let's Brian" (ostensibly about brian wilson??) with wiggly vocals all over the place. The super heavy Japanese accents don't even get in the way here but rather contribute playfully to the overall demeanor. "I'm Leaving" contains a riff lifted from the Beatles' "Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da" played by burpy trumpets and guitars as well as a kazoo duet half way through the song. Strange honks and spacey keyboard noises reign supreme on "Trouble Bom-Bom".

"Electric Waltz" is reminiscient of summer carnivals sort of like the live feel of the Beach Boys "Barbara Ann" crossed with the fraternity fair music from the Revenge of the Nerds movie. And no, the Shmat didn't say that just because he was thinking of the music played while a drunk Brian Tochi rides the little tricycle around a race course. He just caught a clip of the movie the other day so it's still fresh in his memory.

You might think that such a crazy bunch of songs wouldn't sit together well, but there is interesting use of mini themes on this album. In particular, an ascending riff that is played by marimba, bells, and piano in at least 3 separate songs provides musical glue that keeps the songs from descending into chaos. Sort of like how the Jed robot soliloquies appear more than once in Grandaddy's "Sophtware Slump" album. So what's the big theme here? The Shmat doesn't know but it certainly has everything to do with sunny bah-bah-bahs and fun orchestral arrangements. (Note: this is an older album, there are several newer ones that may deserve checking into.)

- review by SHMAT (9.5.03)        

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