The duet act once famously described by me as “like Tenacious D, but not funny” is proving a lot of people (me, mostly) wrong these days. The too-short collection of songs offered here is good for approximately one laugh per 1.5 minutes, and at $5 a CD, that’s not a bad average.
Opener “Business Time” speaks about the lead-up to much-too-pre-planned monogamous-relationship sex. Sure, the musical celebration of the mundane is hilarious, but some of the details (left-on socks, sorting through the recycling as foreplay) have an uncomfortable amount of truth for us married folk. Following that is the brilliant “If You’re Into It,” in which a sweetly shy come-on ends up a suggestion for a kitchen orgy. The last newish song, the basically self-explanatory “Crying,” seems off by comparison, but that may just be because it follows two musical comedy masterpieces.
Add to that a great live version of the painfully honest “Beautiful Girl,” a so-so take of “Mr. Roboto” antithesis “Robots,” and the funny once and accurately named “Banter,” and you’ve got five bucks well spent and a new hankering for the full-length scheduled to drop in October.
In one of the year’s best releases, Okkervil River follows up on the promising Overboard and Down EP with an album that at least matches breakthrough Black Sheep Boy in terms of both brilliance and capacity for complete emotional devastation.
Will Sheff’s talent for an almost rapturous depiction of relationship pains and neurotic stream of consciousness is back in full force with a sharper personal edge. The Stage Names begins by dissecting the failed logic behind viewing life in cinematic terms (“Our Life Is Not a Movie Or”), ends up reappropriating the chorus of Beach Boys folk remake “Sloop John B” (John Allyn Smith Sails”) and along the way reads a daughter’s diary (“Savannah Smiles”) and sets a man getting bitch-slapped by his wife to a peppy ‘70s rock tune, hand claps and all (“You Can’t Hold the Hand of a Rock and Roll Man”). More importantly though, Sheff and Co.’s latest album manages to be something rare — good all the way through — and succeeds at a task few bands even attempt these days: taking the emo out of emotional. •