Mr. Machine commercial
This is not a random thought nor early evidence of my own senility. Try playing any song by the Intelligence over this commercial with the jingle sound off. SEE??? They all just kind of GO with ol' Machiney there. Almost all of Lars Finberg's songs have this kind of hyper-mechanical construction to them: simple, super-repetitive guitar hooks and chords, locked down with marching band drum syncopation. Like Mr. Machine, you can easily see everything that's going on inside them, but instead of Swiss-watch chilly No Wave perfection that such mechanism might produce, the songs veer instead into often darkly funny, whip-smart lyrical mantras, blasted-out metal-flake fuzz, and bizarre, sweet little touches... as unexpected and peculiar and grand as Mr. Machine's creepy demented grin and friggin' bold top hat, as he ambles onward to meet the Energizer Bunny for drinks at a bar that no one would ever admit going to.
With 2012's "Everybody's Got It Easy But Me," (In The Red, June 19th) Finberg and Friends make their most accessible and satisfying work to date -- no less quirky and Mr. Machine-y, fortunately, but adds a clean, punchy production from Chris Woodhouse (who also sat in on drums, bass, guitar, and keys). It brings the vocals forward and lets the lyrics be heard as they really should be. Musical guests include Brigid Dawson from Thee Oh Sees (another of Finberg's band gigs, as drum compadre to Mike Shoun), Heidi Alexander from the Sandwitches, Shannon Shaw from Shannon & the Clams, and Josh Erkman from Lamps. It's a great listen all the way through, catchy as hell, with a delicious undercurrent throughout of early-'60s California surf sweetness. Let's catch up with Mr. Machine and E. Bunny at the bar and take a listen!
"I Like L.A." -- Long a Seattle music scene fixture, Finberg recently relocated to Los Angeles, and the Intelligence now maintains multi-member bases in both cities: Susanna Welbourne on keys, Pete Capponi on drums, Dave Hernandez on guitar, Leslie Ishino on drums, and Jed Maheu on bass. For this track I asked Lars, "Is that a Synsonics drum machine?" and he replied, "The drum machine is some junk store Casio keyboard into a delay pedal that I tweak the speed knob to make the 'Bela Lugosi's Dead' skitters." Swoon. Mr. Machine would definitely approve of the very long beat count here.
"Hippy Provider" -- A frantic pace is set, punctuated by an ascending poppoppopcorn guitar hook. This really deserves its own line dance, which I would pay good money to see. Hey man...
"Evil Is Easy" -- Jungle beat drums and bass fight for space with Devo guitar. It's a draw, which is nothing but good.
"Techno Tuesday" -- Ah, man. Listen to that pretty acoustic guitar, loping along so nicely, the mellotronical floaty bird sounds, and then one of the grimmest lyrics I've ever heard: "...and if I get a new shot, I hope to God, I die in the pod." Sunset surf reverb guitar and a distant horn play it out. F-ing brilliant.
"The Entertainer" -- Waitwaitwaitwaitwaitwaitwait! Hooks hooks hooks! Strongly reminds me of early Elvis Costello, in those late-'70s days when he was jittery and weird and played his Jaguar like he wanted to murder everyone, yet could not help being fantastically musical.
"Reading and Writing About Partying" -- Lars really writes the best song titles. In a better world, this would be 2012's Summer Song, with little kids singing it in their car seats and shirtless jocks singing it on the beach playing volleyball and sweaty DMV workers singing it at Friday karaoke night. It begins with a sample from Personal & The Pizza's "Party Boy," for you trivia fans.
"Dim Limelights" -- Blame the Bossa Nova, until the song is 1/3 of the way in, when Solid Gold '70s twinned electric guitars chime in as Finberg hypnotically chants the title into an eventual swirl of bubbly spaceship synths, and takes off to Mars.
"(They Found Me On The Back Of) The Galaxy" -- The earliest release from the album, this was featured on a 7" split with Kelley Stoltz. You know it's good when Jimmy Page points to it!
(OK OK OK, of COURSE I Photoshopped that, DON'T SUE ME, PAGEY, JEEZ)
"I'm Closed" -- Razor-y staccato chords, "Sexy Sadie" bass, gunshot snare, vibraphone water drops, as "we're here to tell you that, that just isn't true" circles the block until it. just. stops.
"Little Town Flirt" -- I bet you didn't expect a rather faithful cover of this song by Del Shannon, originally released late in the very excellent year of 1962. Shannon (Shaw, not Del) and Lars duet it up, and it's pretty damn adorable.
"Return To Foam" -- "The Pacific North-worst," LOL. Some real-life storytelling snarking alllll over a city which begins with the letter "S," which shan't 'ere be named.
"Sunny Backyard" -- The nas-tay opening guitar tone is as close to the Yardbirds' "Little Games" as I've ever heard, which is COOL (don't sue anyone, Pagey), then slides like a big nasty snake into a psychedelic swamp. Finberg howls and screeches like a banshee while various nightmares play out behind him. WOW. I live to hear this played live.
"Fidelity" -- For the closing track, Finberg chooses an almost church-quiet confessional to lost love, and damned if it doesn't come right in with cathedral organ to underline the point.
So what did we learn today, kids? We learned that "Everybody's Got It Easy But Me," is easily one of the best albums of 2012, and that Mr. Machine, even if "soaking in wine," prevails.
You may purchase "Everybody's Got It Easy But Me" at In The Red Records, on Amazon, or iTunes.