Tag Archives: Lets Active

Under The Radar: Pseudonym

A rose by any other name is…well, whatever that other name is.

Paul Desjarlais understands the “sounds like” game, it’s a necessary tool to try to describe an aural experience with the written word. He describes his sound as a mix of Elvis Costello, David Bowie, XTC, Beatles, Big Star, Pixies, Matthew Sweet, Flaming Lips, mid-60’s top 40, late-60’s psychedelia, early 70’s pop, late-70’s punk rock…and Billy Joel.

I don’t know if it’s that widely accessible, but it is worth a listen. Here’s an old review…

Maybe Paul Desjarlais got tired of people butchering his last name, or maybe he’s a closet PIL fan. Regardless, Pseudonym’s Pig Tail World is an intriguing record full of certified indie pop and obtuse lyrics. “Accident Prone” won me over immediately with layers of great vocals and a huge hook; it wasn’t until I paid closer attention to the lyrics that I realized what a dark song it really is. Ditto “Kill Me In The Rain” (although John Gage wrote the words here, you’d be hard pressed to tell them apart from Paul’s lyrics).

Although he sometimes gets close to what one might consider a mainstream pop song, the lyrics usually give it away. Consider “Ray Gun”, which could fit easily on any Lets Active record, and even features one of the few guitar solos on the album. “Ice And Snow” is presented as sparse but bouncy pop, and later, as the hidden track, in a fuller, more Brian Wilson-ish version. “Crashing” is one of my favorites; I enjoy the way he slaps the words against the grain of the melody to challenge the song’s pulse, yet effortlessly draws it all together in the chorus before unfurling it again.

And he does play with you a little; “Half Eyes” is a seventy-nine second track recorded backwards, and “Broccoli Blues” cannot be taken seriously when “tennis shoes” and the song’s title anchor the rhyme of a verse. Recorded “in a living room, an attic and a basement“, Pig Tail World may not be for every casual listener but will bring great pleasure with those for a taste for something a little different.

Hear some clips from Pig Tail World at CD BABY

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Under The Radar – The Third Men

With so many albums out there, we rely on the “sounds like” marketing approach, whether we’re reviewers trying to describe a band’s sound or the band itself trying to attract attention. Tell me you sound like Shannon Hoon singing Styx songs to a marimba beat and I’m moving along faster than a booster rocket. Drop names like Cheap Trick, Big Star and Todd Rundgren and I’m going to stop by and give your disc a listen.

Granted, I know that doesn’t mean you’re necessarily going to have the songwriting chops that Todd has, the mercurial vocals of Robin Zander or the soulful essence of Alex Chilton and company. I get that. But I’m figuring that if these are the sounds that influence you, some of that is going to bleed through into your music. And what you do with that osmosis is what counts.

It was just such a list of influences that led me to The Third Men, a Nebraska band that plays “hook laden songs at high volume” and were raised on raised on “equal parts 70s FM radio and 80s underground psychedelia“. Most bands with multiple vocalists and songwriters is going to have a diverse sound, especially when those members are veterans of other bands. I’m not familiar with Sons Of…, which featured Mike Tulis and Matt Rutledge, but I was a big fan of Patrick White‘s former groups The Dangtrippers and The Bent Scepters. Dana Rouch and Mike Loftus complete the versatile quintet.

The songs on Boost range from crunchy powerpop to garage bubblegum, flooded with ringing guitars and a snappy backbeat with a flood of keyboard sounds that color the songs vividly. But there’s energy here – lots of Elvis Costello-ish Farfisa moments, many dBs and Lets Active sounding songs with clever arrangements. “The Hangover” mixes Big Star chord progressions with drum fills from The Book Of Ringo; “G.A.S.” is reminiscent of the early Beach Boys/Jan and Dean singles. I also heard some Byrds and Jayhawks moments sprinkled in, and even a KISS/REO Speedwagon moment that caught me off guard.

Drawbacks? Occasionally nasal or reedy vocals; none of the singers is particularly strong but the harmonies are solid. Another is the thin production; given the material I imagine this would be a whole different record if it was punched up a bit more. But within the bouncy music are occasionally dark and humorous lyrics, and while there aren’t any instant classics on Boost, most the songs are head-bobbingly appealing.

For me, a pleasant surprise and a band I’ll keep my eye (and ear) on. If any of those musical references above tickle your fancy, give this one a proper spin or two and let it grow on you.

Listen to clips from Boost at CDBaby

The Third Men website

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