Reviews and Roflcopters

28 10 2009

Hello one and all, and welcome to a weekly article I have spontaneously entitled Reviews and Roflcopters, this, as the name suggests will be a review segment, in which I may review books, movies, albums, TV shows, websites or whatever else heads my way. If you have any suggestions for me to review please comment below and tell me.

For my very first review, I am going to review an album. The stereotypical review article would do a recent “pop” release, along the lines of Britney Spears or Lady Gaga. While those articles are great, I feel sometimes the unnoticed music or the older albums are just as good if not better than current releases.

Mailbox is a relatively undiscovered band, pumping out all manner of rock, classic, and piano based music. Earlier this year I had the pleasure of stumbling upon them via an ad banner. Most might say that a band that advertises itself is too “try hard”, I agreed as well, until I discovered Mailbox.

How it is Nowadays

 untitled

How it is Nowadays is – in my opinion – Mailbox’s greatest release, a title invoking nostalgia. But underneath this clever title lies an undiscovered gold mine of songs, each song about a different character, as it were, from a Doctor who’s days seem to fly by, to a coffee addict to a literal freak of science, each song wonderfully captures these characters that whether you love or hate, you have to admit are brilliant.

 Track one is titled Tales of the Weird and Fantastic, a wonderfully imagined piece, about an old man who yearns for a simpler world he once left. He is an un-named eccentric character who lives within his den, scared of new and young, with a very fast paced beginning that sounds suited for a Harry Potter movie transitioning to a manic spectrum of sounds resembling a bar mitzvah. The piano in this song is fast paced and alone would sound perfect but perfection is improved by adding different layers to the song.

 The second track, The Lies We Tell Grandma brings back something we all miss to rock, the accordion! Combining a fairly simple accordion melody with male vocals, the song builds up slowly with more layers of instruments being added. The tension builds simultaneously with this progression, the lyrics are dark and extremely funny, about a family’s senile grandmother, and the lies that they tell her to retain her deteriorating mental state. A short lyric taster for your pleasure is below,

Here comes Grandma, let’s smile for show
Don’t tell her something she won’t need to know
Everything’s fine so just plug up the drain
The lies we tell grandma will keep her sane

 Track Three – What You Think, A song about a self centered man, who literally lists different things “you” like, that almost sounds like the protagonist is giving you reasons to respect him. This song is blessed with vocals that PERFECTLY encapture the image of this egotistical man, this song starts out like an old NES game, but abruptly begins a very funky beat, and has a fantastic combination of synth, electric guitars and pianos peppered throughout the chorus quite nicely.

 Track four – Trauma – describes something we have ALL experienced, embarrassment and trauma, from trying to cheer up people at a funeral to public nudity at a young age. The song is quite simplistic during the verse, a keyboard or organ and what sounds like a xylophone, though I can’t be 100% sure, with subtle finger snapping in the background, but the chorus of the song really delivers, a rhythmic, pleasing, fast paced chorus, combining drums, piano, bass and synth/keyboard, one of the best tracks on the album as it’s something we all can relate to.

Track Five – Hey Miss Gypsy, this track may not be the best track on the album, as unlike the other tracks it is very sweet and sentimental. It is about a man in love using excuses to see “Miss Gypsy” with whom he is deeply in love, ‘tis a slightly corny song, but the music and vocals of this song more than make up for that. The vocals are very sweet, and at times the singer (Adam Rabin) goes out of his “vocal comfort zone.”  I for one commend him for this, especially as it captures the bare nakedness one would do for love. The song has an impeccable mixture of Ukulele, Bass Guitar, Flute, Keyboard and Drums. The Ukulele works fabulously in providing that “cute” sort of sound and the flute provides a fluttery atmosphere, almost as if the song is set in the clouds.

Track number S-s-s-s-ix, ent-t-t-titled I’m Jitter Boy, it’s the longest track on the album so far, clocking in at 6 minutes. It is a strange song to say the least, for one the song sounds as if it we’re composed for a rock musical, which always sound great, so what’s stopping this song from being awesome? Nothing. The song is about a hyperactive coffee addict nicknamed “Jitter Boy”, who’s problems seem to stem from his hyperactivity, though it has a spectrum of lyrics and this is merely a conjecture. This song is dominated by the use of the piano, which is used so classically, from the domineering low notes to the subtle middle notes and the higher notes punctuating Adam Rabin’s voice at the end. The song transitions are seamless and were it used in a musical I would not at all be surprised.

Seventh track, Dr. Eckstein, is about a Dr. House-like character, whose days in the hospital are beginning to blur, interest in his profession has waned, and all he wants is a long holiday. This song is very clever, it subtly uses sounds from hospital equipment as percussion, and other voices are muffled as if the vocals were omitted from announcement speakers. The electric guitar within this song is very fast paced and plucky. And Dr. Eckstein’s vocals are talking over the music, which really helps add to illusion of a doctor that really just doesn’t care anymore, leaving the enthusiastic singing to the muffled back-up singers.

Eighth Track on the album, boldly titled She’s Coming (I’m Drinking), follows along the same line as I’m Jitter Boy, about addiction being the root of all problems the character experiences. The song introduces a character who would just prefer to be drinking than to do anything else, or so it would appear. The song has a very funky feel to it, with bongos in the song a very nice touch. This song sports a very nice electric guitar, which appears to be influenced by the musical styles of Carlos Santana, it is very domineering and central, but supported by a simplistic but accompanied by a funkadelic bass line.

Track Nine, Happy Birthday, Freak of Science, changes up the mood a bit and gains a much darker and more mysterious theme. It is a very hard song to analyse, as the lyrics are so cryptic, but from what I can gain the song is about a being that is considered a “freak” and is in deep, deep seclusion with a girl, possibly his/her mother. The song is progressional, and it is a wonderful contrast when the song with a bass, an electric, drum set and so on just simplify down to the bass again, this really accentuates the vocals and gives a very eerie feel to the song, it just gives a very sketchy feel to the song, which is very effective, and lyrics such as:

Father Time slept through his greatest defiance
Happy Birthday, Freak of Science

It really puts in perspective what the world thinks of this being, a Freak of Science.

Very last track on the album is Garden Gnome. About a Garden Gnome away from the comfort of his garden, going on his adventures. This is one of the best tracks on the album, as it has such a good piano tune, that is just…infectious, I dare you to listen and not tap your feet. The song starts out very light and high, which really prepares the mindset of magical themes to come. The vocals are very real, and the drums have such a good beat, I’m not quite sure how to reword it, this song is just perfect and so catchy and fun, one of the best Mailbox tracks made.

How things are Nowadays is an album of contrast, of new and old, normal and abnormal, and from how things were, to how things are, a nostalgic album definitely worth a good listen, available for listening and free, yes that’s right FREE download at http://www.imadeitup.com/album/335/Mailbox/How-It-Is-Nowadays

By Lachlan

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2 responses

30 10 2009
Jeff Margolis

I can’t believe I’m reading this review. I played bass on this album all those years ago. This was the one-and-only Mailbox album to come from the “live band” era. Most of the rest of the Mailbox catalog is Adam’s mad genius basement recordings. This band got started when I heard his 2000 release, “What’s in the Box?” (http://www.imadeitup.com/album/316/Mailbox/What%27s-In-The-Box) and found out he was living in my town. I urged Adam to start a live version of the band and we played songs from the entire catalog. If you liked “Nowadays” I think you’ll find that there are a lot of Mailbox songs waiting for your discovery and enjoyment. Thanks for such a glowing review!

Jeff Margolis

31 10 2009
Mike

Big fan… Glad more folks will get to hear because of your review.

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