Song of the day: Motel Beds – "Valentimes"

Some time last week – or was it the week before? Hang on…

Er, just over a week ago US band Motel Beds let me know they’d recorded a new song called “Dumb Gold”. I duly played it on 31 October (or “October 31” if you’re American and insist), and thought that was that. I didn’t think I’d hear from them for quite a while as they spent the next x amount of months presumably slaving over their next album.

Nope. The Beds emailed again just a few days later saying they’d made a new album. It’s called Dumb Gold (I guess they like that title), and the chaps (Hi, chaps!) asked if I’d give it a bit of a review.

As I always say to myself at times like these: “I’m game”. So they sent me the album to have a listen. And listen I did.

Here, for your perusal, is what I thought of Motel Beds’ Dumb Gold

1. “Smoke Your Homework”

I like this.

2. “Valentimes”

I like this more.

3. “Rattle Rattle”

I’m not liking this as much as the previous song, but I’m still liking it a lot.

Reviewing this album is easy.

4. “Runnin For Nothin”

Yep. I’m still liking these songs.

One quick observation: I’m not a huge fan of singers sounding like their voices are coming out of a megaphone. As far as I can tell, that thing started in rock music with Julian Casablancas in The Strokes. (Example.) Unfortunately, when The Strokes became the rock band du jour, it seemed that it was a statutory requirement for singers to sound slightly distant and distorted. I found it annoying that producers decided to jump on that particular bandwagon, as it does a singer no favours.

5. “Oh Me Oh My”

It’s the “low-key song in the middle of the album” song. And I like it. This one reminds me of Fountains Of Wayne when they do their low-key thing. I’m not entirely sure why someone decided to use jingle bells in this song (1:06-1:44). Maybe they were lying around in the studio, and someone played with them, resulting in a “Hey guys, these sound great! Let’s use ’em in a song!”.

By the way, the tone of the singer’s voice throughout most of this song reminds me of Jellyfish’s Andy Sturmer.

6. “Dream Of Sleep”

Well, this is a surprise. Although I’m finding “Dream Of Sleep” enjoyable, I’m not enjoying it as much as the previous five songs. I don’t think it’s a dud song or anything, but it’s not “connecting” with me in any particular way. Not even the boppy “ba-dap ba ba-dap, ba-dap ba ba-dap” vocals are helping. This is very odd. Hmm. Maybe I’ll enjoy it more the next time I hear it.

7. “Dumb Gold”

That’s better. A Fifties-inspired ditty. I found this instantly likeable, despite the ill-advised bass guitar note (0:06, and then again at 0:17) and the megaphone nonsense on the vocals. Oh-oh. The bass plays that note again at 0:28. And 0:39. He keeps playing it. Grrr.

Gentle admonishing of the bass player: The chord progression throughout the verse is…

Bar 1      Bar 2      Bar 3      Bar 4
| | | |    | | | |    | | | |    | | | |
F#  G#     C#         F#  G#     C#

When you (Hi, bass player!) play D# instead of F# in the third bar, it doesn’t fit because the rest of the band is still playing F#. It’d be fine if everyone else played D#m on top of your D#, but no-one is. They’re all still playing F#, and you’re the only one playing D#.

At 0:47 we finally get to the chorus which I thought took way too long, but I think it’s a great chorus for the song. It’s very Fifties.

After the chorus it’s a little four-bar instrumental interlude (1:09-1:19) and then back to the verse. Two things happened here which surprised me: 1) that megaphone voice now sounds creepy to me (it didn’t before); and 2) that relentlessly stubborn bass guitar note for some reason doesn’t bother me now. I don’t know why. Or maybe I do. (Or don’t.) Hang on…

I’m listening to the guitars on top of the bass at 1:26, and it sounds like the one in the left channel is playing a chord different to the one it played earlier when the bass was playing its pesky note.

Sorry about taking so much time on something so trivial. I’ll stop messing about with this nonsense and just say I like this song.

But I do want to sneak in this: I like the bit where the band chugs along, from 1:29-1:39. It’s probably my favourite part of the entire album. Now, saying that doesn’t mean I prefer hearing the Motel Beds without any vocals. I do like the vocals. Maybe not through a megaphone, but I do like them.

Time to move on.

8. “Overlapping Planes”

Grr. There’s that megaphone vocal sound again. But that’s not stopping me enjoying this slightly country-ish slow rocker. (When it started it reminded me of the Eagles’ “Tequila Sunrise” because of the guitar part in the left channel.) As far as individual elements of the song go, I much prefer the verse to the chorus. (I have trouble remembering any part of the chorus, even when it’s playing.)

I feel it my sworn duty to mention the dud note sung by one of the backing singers at 2:41. There’s no other way to put it: that is one flat note.

I like the song though.

9. “Better”

I like this, despite the rudeness of the singer (“Seen around the place, thinkin’ about things like your big fat face”). I think the drums are very well recorded in this song. (They probably were in the other songs as well, but I didn’t notice.) And the guitars. And the bass.

I can’t think of much else to say about this song but “I like it”.

10. “Motion Sickness”

A low-key way to end the album, and it’s another song with hints of the Fifties. (It almost enters Crooner territory.) Although I appreciate the dissolute vibe of the song, I’m not especially keen on the (deliberately) lazy singing. The singin’ man takes a bit too much time easing into his notes for my liking. But all a matter of personal taste.

Incidentally, the jingle bells came back. They’re in the song’s two middle eights (1:43-2:14 and then 3:07-3:38). Well, if you have jingle bells lying around the studio, you don’t want them to go to waste do you?

Oh, and I like this song too.

***

Unless I think of something else to type, that’ll probably it for my not-particularly-helpful review. Looking over it again, I see that the gist of the entire thing is that I like it.

That about sums up the review. I like it. Thanks, chaps!

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