By Shain Shapiro
For the most part, Impeccable Blahs - the fourth release from Brooklyn-based trio Say Hi To Your Mom - is, well, one big impeccable blah. For the uneducated, Say Hi To Your Mom, aside from the inventive, head-scratching moniker, is lauded for their trailblazing, forward-thinking approach to lo-fi, ironic synth pop akin to contemporaries Mates of State and Architecture in Helsinki. Their third release, Ferocious Mopes, and debut Discosadness are both critically acclaimed, creating a bevy of underground support from all sides of the spectrum. Yet Impeccable Blahs is a retreat for the trio, as the emotive, contagious pop bravado that generously swathed the previous three releases is held back, creating a listen stuck at a crossroads where melodies stagnate rather than expand into their usual unique, indie-pop gems.
According to the insert, this album is all about vampires. While such eccentric inspiration is nothing new to Say Hi To Your Mom, this time the band does not do much with the theme musically, like push its buttons, or better yet, drink its bright, melodic blood. Opener "These Fangs" and "Snow Cones and Puppies" revolve around fanciful keyboard lines and the normal, oddball antics frequented by lead singer, principle leader, and guitarist Eric Elbogan, drummer Chris Egan, and keys player Jeff Sheinkopf (ex Sea Ray). Yet from the third track "Blah Blah Blah," the listen becomes a collaboration of the song's title, including subtly political "Sad, But Endearingly So" right through closer "The Reigning Champ of the Teething Crowd." The recipe is there: blood-quenching theme, thoughtful, literate composers, simple, short pop songs and a fantastic vocalist in Elbogan. Yet what ends up in the cauldron remains murky even after re-seasoning because the ability to experiment with the song structures, melodies, and rhythmic nuances, unlike the lyrics, is restrictive in almost every track. As you can see, the odd and somewhat literate song titles are there, but the accompanying odd and somewhat literate music fails to keep up. Drone is emphasized over cheerful choruses, almost halting any inherent sarcasm in the record before it has time to fully develop. Even "She Just Happens to Date the Prince of Darkness," a wonderfully cynical, slow-droned ballad that engenders the blood-sucking kingpin's love life fails to inspire. The topic is great, but the music only sporadically piques interest.
And there you have the overriding quandary embedded in Impeccable Blahs. Maybe in the process of writing consciously about vampires, all the blood was sucked out of the trio, or maybe after three critically acclaimed releases, a dud was due. Still, the sarcasm, cynicism, and tight pop prowess exist, albeit in a less forceful manner than the previous three records. It is still better than most of their contemporaries. However blah this record is, it's still impeccable.
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