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The Moldy Peaches : The Moldy Peaches

BY SAM FRANK

Take Belle and Sebastian. Divide by zero, invert, hack to pieces. In the negative space left over is the Moldy Peaches.

The anti-Belle and Sebastian: not a Scotch six but a Manhattan two, not lushly orchestrated but direct-to-four-track, not fey but scabrous. It's indie pop with a male/female vocal combo, sure—but that's it, except for a few mics overloaded to explosion, a shredding, fuzzboxed acoustic guitar, and a big boom of a drum set.

Every Moldy Peaches lyric reads like a cross between a snotty parody and a music-nerd love letter. There's the mawkish pas de deux (She: "Indie boys are neurotic." He: "Makes my eyes bleed." She: "Tight black pants exotic." He: "Some loving's what I need."), the rave-up anthem ("Who's Got the Crack?" which touches on goats in moats with boats and glove-stealing sailors), the screeching cover of "Little Bunny Foo Foo." The album even purports to be on the seminal, defunct Rough Trade Records label—though it's nothing but a self-released CD-R.

Amazingly, the occasional lapse into shtick aside, the relentless ironizing and hyper-referentiality come across as real and heartfelt, like Beck or Pavement at their best. "Nothing Came Out" may rattle off Thundercats and Sailormoon (and 20 more), but the chorus's aim is true: "And besides, you're probably holding hands/With some skinny pretty girl who likes to talk about bands/And all I want to do is ride bikes with you/And stay up late, and watch cartoons."

The lyrics are so stunning—in the head, the heart, the bowels—that the Moldy Peaches' ragged musical inventiveness and deceptively complex arrangements fade away. But the album sounds great while sounding awful—Kimya Dawson bursts out laughing in the middle of her weepiest lines, speakers blow and vocals bleed, but their falling apart is as in-control as most bands' tightness. Just check the in-and-out-of-sync, simultaneous vocal lines in "Steak for Chicken." She: "We invented this new kind of darts/Hit a bullseye, cut a fart." He: "We invented this new kind of art/Postmodernist throwing darts."

The anti-Belle and Sebastian. But the Moldy Peaches hit all the same emotional targets, bullseye. They just do it while standing backwards. (www.moldypeaches.com) —Sam Frank

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