(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

CD review - Idiot Glee, Paddywhack (2011)

James Friley's solo band, Idiot Glee, channels a retro sense of innocent wonder. Paddywhack harkens back to doo wop and early '60s harmony but built on more modern technology like drum machines and looped keyboard lines. Friley has credited the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds as a pivotal influence. The home recorded feel and unselfconscious charm of Paddywhack serve as a homage to Brian Wilson, while the harmonies overtly reach for the Beach Boys.

The over saturated, low-fi finish and large room reverb emphasize the home grown feel, but they also support a sensibility that pure emotional expression needn't be polished to be beautiful. Friley's lead voice is competent without being showy. Still, the harmony arrangements are well thought out, adding depth to the songs while still emphasizing a kind of naïveté.

The a capella harmonies of I Want the Night to Stay are a great example. A step removed from straight doo wop, they evoke Under the Boardwalk and a hundred other tunes. The lyrics reflect the melancholy sense of isolation that I wallowed in at 15:
Is there anyone else awake?
Am I the only who believes in staying up late?
Through the night
It's alright
Friley's open character comes through in this song, as he connects with his inner Brian Wilson. Tooling around in his minivan is just another unassuming element of the video that fills out his whole aesthetic.

One of the more interesting tracks, though, is Trouble at the Dancehall, which starts with steady drum and cymbal, soon followed by long organ chords. It's like Pink Floyd's Careful With That Axe, Eugene at a faster tempo. That tense yet dreamy sense lasts right until the vocals kick in to completely shift the mood into an easy listening groove. That flip flop is the sonic equivalent of an optical illusion.

Other anachronistic moments on Paddywhack fall out of the keyboard looping artifacts, but none of this changes the inherent emotional purity of the music. Give Idiot Glee a chance to connect with your inner teenager.

Paddywhack is due out June 7 on Moshi Moshi.

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