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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Marvin's Marvelous Mechanical Museum

An incredibly well-produced and creative first album for the independent band Tally Hall, some college students from Michigan. Tally Hall is quite possibly the newest great art rock band. Do not walk, run, or at least jog to your nearest respectable music store to buy this album. If you do not find it there, which is likely, buy it on Amazon.

Now, the actual review. This album is an extremely professional use of studio effects and guest musicians combined with unpretentious and actively diverse musical creativity. The first half of the album is a musical collage, with the exception of two songs "Greener," and "Welcome to Tally Hall." Nothing short of a denial by the band will convince me that "Greener" is not a tribute to '90s non-pop rock. "Welcome to Tally Hall" is actually a feather-light rap, with the priceless verse "Well I might rap like an english chap\take you by the knickers and I'll bum your slap\you didn't think we had the gall\well bloody welcome to Tally Hall!" The world needs more rap songs like that song. This song is quite possibly a spoof of self-exaltation songs, with the repeated lines at the end "We think we're playing in a band\But we'd like to give you all a hand!" Tally Hall, by the way, was originally a mini-mall in upstate Michigan. Hmmm...

What I meant by a musical collage, is that particularly daring bands might incorporate two completely different sections into their songs, while "Good Day," "Take You For a Ride," and "The Bidding" each have no less than three different sounding sections, with "The Bidding" having four if you count the pop rock coda. This is all well and good, except for the fact that it can be difficult to get into these songs on the first listen, due to the sound effects used, distortion, and change in style. On the first listen, there is a lot of noise, but some good music. On the second, the noise begins to be decoded, and you understand the order of the songs. By the third listen, the musical tapestry fully reveals itself. Something that doesn't help you listen to the songs, but ultimately makes them more enjoyable, is the unconventional lyrics. I won't spoil the trip of figuring them out, but this is where I'll note these guys proclaim themselves a wonky rock band. [Edit: In retrospect, even "Welcome to Tally Hall" has three sections, with the rap, a short funk section, and a pop rock coda.]

The rest of the album is much more conventional in song structure and easier to understand, but if anything the song topics get stranger. "Be Born" is a country-folk song about what the title says. "Banana Man" has an excellent music video set to an earlier version of the song, and the song is about being addicted to eating...bananas...and about playing...spirit games. Oh, and it's in a carribean(?) style. "Spring and a Storm" reminds me of the Beach Boys in sections. I think it's about hanging on to life in face of rains, or maybe it's just Tally Hall's, "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head." [Edit: Yep, it's definitely about persevering in the face of life's storms. Soulful too, under all the seeming nonsense.] Two Wuv is the most hilarious song ever about viciousness from unrequited love from...Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen. Yes, this stuff is weird.

The last song, Ruler of Everything, is a collage in the same style of the earlier part of the album, and I only mention it to say that it has an awesome drum beat in a style shift about halfway through.

"Be Born" is pretty much the only song I don't like, and I think it's the ridiculous chorus at work here. That's the one weak spot on the album. This is a good album, hell, this is a great album, and if you like to listen to eclectic music with eccentric creative lyrics, permeated with infectious enthusiasm, you should get it. Myself, I can't wait to see what Tally Hall does next.

One last thing: At the end of the album, there is some reversed tape of Marvin Yagoda, the proprietor of the real Marvin's Marvelous Mechanical Museum, saying, "Wouldn't the world be better off if we took nonsense more seriously?"

In case you missed it, the official band website is here. It has some funny non-music stuff in the video section.