Saturday, August 2, 2008

The Telepathic Butterflies -- Breakfast In Suburbia (2008)

The Telepathic Butterflies -- Breakfast In Suburbia (Rainbow Quartz)

On its third album, the Canadian psych-pop band led by Rejean Ricard sounds as good as ever. Musically, this album is pretty comparable to the last two, with perhaps just a bit more of a punchy mod aspect to a song or two.

Where the band has tried to grow is in the content department. Breakfast In Suburbia is a concept album. Ricard looks at the ‘burbs with a jaundiced eye. It makes for some pretty interesting songs. At times, he may have sacrificed some hooks to focus on the words. I think it’s a worthwhile tradeoff, because the music is consistently engaging and Ricard’s vigor for his commentary is obvious.

For example, “Gossip Trail” is a pithy look at how information travels around a neighborhood, people exchanging rumors for no other reason than it’s something to pass the time with. The song is a pleasant jangle popper that ends with this observation: “Now that we’re getting old and chronically sick and cold/it’s hard to face change/but I’m still quite aware of things going on right here/it’s hard to explain.”

Ricard is even more cutting on “A Scathing Report”. Musically, this song covers some of the same moony territory as former labelmates Rockfour. This is as hectoring as the most moralistic T Bone Burnett song, with Ricard indicting Americans for proclaiming such lofty goals and aspirations, but not realizing the facts that undermine these claims. This isn’t your typical psych-pop, with hippy dippy paisley dripping lyrics.

Ricard moves into Beatles and Hollies territory on the questioning “A Midlife Crisis”. This song is a laundry list of things that the protagonist should have done. The music is mid-tempo and melancholy as Ricard ruminates in the verses, and the tempo and melody pick up in the refrain, as he realizes how he can make up for it by doing something now. I love how the musical shifts compliment the lyrics.

“She Looks Good” is somewhere between The Kinks, Paul McCartney and a Mike Nesmith Monkees tune. This song might have the strongest hook on the record. This is a song about facades versus self-awareness, and Ricard makes his preference well known: “It’s the fact you are yourself that makes you great.”

And the Butterflies are themselves. What comparisons I make throughout this review are, for the most part, pretty general. Some ‘60s revivalists are much more explicit about their thefts. But this trio has melded its inspirations into a distinctive sound that evokes with sounding too derivative of any one artist.

This album, although instantly attractive on the surface, takes a bit longer to sink in. As I said near the beginning, the focus on the lyrics might come at the expense of a few hooks. And although I like the words, Ricard’s observations are sometimes more heartfelt than original. Still, I find myself going back to this album enough that there is definitely something to it.

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