by Ryan Mac Donald
Editor in Chief
Laughing along with the lyrics of this band will do them a two favors. (1) It will drive record sales; and (2) it will allow the members of the Sound of Urchin to keep their day jobs.
If this does not happen, these members should move back to their hometowns in Pennsylvania and continue to play in the empty coffeehouses.
“You Are the Best” weaves easy sounds of jazz with upbeat, punk-like beats reminiscent of Blink 182 with spoken words and hard rock. The band proves its eclectic nature with this album, as every song changes beats, baselines and melodies.
There is no distinguished message wrapped up in the final product, and the band does not attempt to prove its marketability.
But with this album, Urchin has created music that mocks the mainstream by asking its listeners to delve into this abstract, musical achievement.
The lead singer Tomato (Chris Harfenist) plays the role of drummer and primary songwriter and proves his commitment to the album by shouting/singing/talking/chanting/speaking through every track on the album with an authoritative diction and articulation that quickly establishes the tone of the album. To hear the facetiousness in their music is simple, but understanding this slapstick humor is not as easy.
The rest of the band consists of three other members who contributed to the release of “You Are the Best.” They have been on the road touring with the critically acclaimed Tenacious D (it is possible they picked up some of their talent) and other soloist Trik Turner.
The songs cover a spectrum of sounds and run the gamut from chunky guitar-riff filled rockets to feel good, ’70s inspired lounge tunes complete with horns, flutes and sing-along choruses. The band started writing the musical tunes together in 1995, and almost immediately, these vignettes from “You Are the Best” struck them more significantly than anything they had ever played or written. Eventually, the group recorded the music, and now it serves as a collection of stories that embodies their off-stage personalities.
The third track, “Scary Skull Eyes,” is the most skilled composition on the album, as it weaves ’70s style grooves with modern lyrics and sounds. It mixes the disco-inspired music over lyrics as the band sings: “Oh no we didn’t know we totaled your Vette on River road/ oh no we didn’t know we all were messing with the scary skull.”
In the end, the lyrics do not add up to anything socially or culturally profound, but if the listener allows himself to absorb the mood, the result is pleasurable and rewarding. The song is light, fluffy and airy but its best qualities do not distract from the overall composition, much like the rest of the album.
It is hard to tell if Urchin wants their audiences to laugh at them or with them, but either way, they probably do not mind. In other words, only true fans of sarcastic banter will appreciate what this album has to offer.
The song “Fireflies on the 4th of July,” for example, uses a voice that sounds like a baby alien to sing some of the background vocals, and with this expression, listeners are left amused yet confused with what to laugh at.
Along with the band, the voice chants: “red, red meat vegetarian, king stock broker, king librarian.” The group’s humorous acts, like this, can be appreciated as long as their subsequent talent is also recognized.
On “The Clearing Hole” Harfenist shows off his singing talent in the album’s best ballad. Guitar solos and cymbal crashes give the music a slight dramatic flare, but it is the lyrics that mark the song’s credibility: “The more you live the more you know/ you can’t stop it though you want to so/ and you go.”
With this adage being some of the last good lyrics on the album, the group’s mission is accomplished: the one thing saving them from being a complete joke, mockery and disaster is they know they already are.
So go on and buy this album, just as long as you laugh along side the Sound of Urchin.