Be What You Want (Evil Nine/Bomp)
by Brian Varney
Aah yes, the delightful confection that is the purest, shiniest pop music: The brass ring that so many aspiring songwriters have reached for with lust in their eyes and Beatles records poking from their back pockets. Heady territory, yes, but only if you can reach it. As the saying goes, it’s nice work if you can get it.
The problem, of course, is that pop bliss requires absolute perfection. Loud rock allows plenty of leeway for sloppy playing, bad singing, shaky songwriting, etc. The sort of task bands like The Lovetones take upon themselves requires a precision and an attention to detail that most musicians simply do not possess, which is why I involuntarily get clammy when I hear a bandleader earnestly declare that he would like to make a “mature pop record.” Sure, it’s great if you can succeed, but look at the abysmally low success rate and the too-horrible-to-comprehend potential destinations, which range from sensitive, self-pitying boy-child bleating to “light rock, less talk” schmaltzville, for the failures.
I can’t say that Be What You Want is a perfect album, but they make a pretty damn good run at it. Lead singer Matthew J. Tow’s voice reminds me at times of Guided By Voices singer Bob Pollard, so I suppose GBV comparisons are a bit inevitable. Opener “The Sound and the Fury” is what Guided By Voices might sound like if Bob Pollard were ever inspired to actually complete a song and then arrange and produce it well. I like a few GBV albums a lot, but The Lovetones have enough of a pride in their craft that shittily-recorded half-songs – which are GBV’s bread and butter – are unacceptable. And this is a good thing. Like a master brick mason or furniture maker, the people who wrote the songs contained herein are craftsmen. The songs are the product of sweat and elbow grease and, well, work, as is most of the good music in this world. The folks who rattle on about “waiting for inspiration” are almost always charlatans of the worst sort, and their lack of work is usually painfully transparent in the finished product.
I’m not trying to sound like I’m down on all lo-fi music, but it can be kind of annoying when one listen to an album pretty much confirms that the retail price of the finished product exceeds the entire recording budget. This is especially the case in the field of pop music, where so much of a song’s success can lie in the details – a well-placed handclap, a spine-chilling harmony, etc. In any case, you’ll have no such worries with Be What You Want: It’s as artfully crafted and lovingly tended as a highly-polished emerald ring, and you can feel assured that any money you spend acquiring it was well-spent.
(PO Box 7112 Burbank, CA 91510)