Wonderland (Fueled by Ramen)
by Tim Den
I wasn’t sure what to make of Wonderland at first. While I applaud the younger generation’s attempts at becoming “more serious” by tackling concept albums, metaphorical lyrics, and tech-oriented arrangements, almost every product from such thinking has resulted in absolute garbage. Yes, these are all characteristics worth pursuing. But when the pursuers are equipped with melodrama and the literacy of 16 year olds? Yup, might as well go watch Charmed. It just feels shallow and overwrought. So when I realized that Wonderland was a concept album about “the story of a city, its people, and the greed and money that control them,” I was already halfway slipping the disc into the “pass” pile. But a few songs into the record, and I’m quickly finding redeemable elements. Harmonized guitar interplay, rhythmic change-ups, instrumental call-and-response, not to mention a good grasp of the major-minor mechanism in chord patterns (with plenty of nice, dramatic halfsteps in all the right places)… hmmm, maybe these guys are the exception to the rule? Oh but wait, look at the song titles: “Beware the Jubjub Bird and Shun the Fumious Bandersnatch,” “Il Tango Della Signora Franceso di Bartolommeo di Zanobi del Giocono,” “A Dead Person Breathed on Me!,” “Harry Frazee and No, No, Nannette”… okay, I can’t take anymore. Just typing these strung together equivalents of food fights makes me queasy. There’s Douglas Adams, and then there’s Bad Poetry Reading Guy From Every ’80s Movie. Who said you should crossbreed them into the brain of a chimp? Ugh, and why the fuck would you impose strict AutoTune on the vocals to the point that it sounds like a computer switching off and on?
Okay, so Forgive Durden might not be the exception to the rule, but there’s clearly talent within the band. If you can stomach terribly underwhelming storytelling and word usage set to decent, semi-complex (but still catchy) indiemo, give Wonderland a shot. Otherwise, wait ’til these guys graduate from college.