I was contacted by a chap called Rob (Hi, Rob!) who’s in an American power pop band called Didn’t Planet. Considering that band name is a dreadful pun, Rob endeared himself to me immediately.
Rob wanted me to have a listen to their debut album. It’s called We’re Goin’ Nowhere, and it’s something very rare in the music world: a power pop concept album. I’ve only ever come across two other power pop concept albums – Sweet Diss And The Comebacks’ Emerald City Love Song, and The Turnback’s Drawn In Chalk – both of which I talked about on the blog (See links.) There are apparently a couple of others (here and here), but as far as I know that’s it.
We’re Goin’ Nowhere is about the trials and tribulations of a covers band over the years. (Or, putting it another way, the trials and errors of a covers band.)
I did my standard thing whereby I listened to the album and jotted down my responses.
Here we go…
1. “Intro (Fat Albert)“
Whilst listening to this, I have two impressions. I’m not impressed with the spoken word stuff and the in-joke laughing. (I have no idea what they’re laughing about, which makes it not particularly funny to me. Maybe if I was stoned it’d be funny.) But I am impressed with the sound of the band. It’s well recorded. Nice and punchy.
I like this. I think that with this song I’ve finally figured out the definition of the word “crunchy” that power pop fans like to use a lot. The guitars at the start of “Maryann(e)” are highly distorted and compressed. I’m pretty sure that sound is what people mean when they say “crunchy”.
By the way, I’m guessing a lot of people have asked about the name of the song, about why there’s an “e” at the end of it in parentheses. But I’m not going to ask. No way.
3. “Any Requests?“
Skippable spoken-word stuff. (It only lasts 19 seconds, so it’s it’s no big deal.)
4. “We’re Goin’ Nowhere“
Ah, a slow flange on the chk-chk-chk-chk guitar. To me that’s the sound of a train. (It’s sort of like a recurring Doppler effect). While I’m speaking about sound, I’d like to point out something about the drums in this song. They sound like real drums. Real drums – not something heavily processed. The snare drum sounds refreshingly like a real snare drum. It actually sounds like a drum stick hitting a drum skin. I can hear the tap on the ride cymbal in the right channel, and it actually sounds like someone tapping a ride cymbal. However, if I was scoring the drum sound I’d have to take points off for the floor toms. For me they’re nowhere near loud enough in the kit (e.g., 2:31). I like the guitar solo (2:54-3:05). I like how noodly it is, with lots of repeating note patterns.
This one starts off with a horrendously common chord progression: B minor, G major, D major, A major. See Axis Of Awesome’s “Four Chords” for a few hundred other songs using that chord progression. (This is a concept album about a covers band, so maybe that was deliberate.) This song was a bit schizophrenic for me, because the verses reminded me of musical genre known as “pop punk“, and the choruses reminded me of The Darkness. But at least the drums still sounded like drums.
When the introductory short spoken-word stuff is out of the way, the song starts with a bass playing a low D, and my first thought was “Oh-oh, I hope they’re not going to play a drop-D, Nu-Metal kind of thing.” I’m not overly fond of drop-D songs. But instead of a drop-D/Nu-Metal thing, the bass keeps playing that low D (with some occasional higher notes) and the spoken-word stuff keeps going. (It’s an answering-machine message, and the speaker sounds like he’s just woken up and is still very tired.) When the guitar comes in (at 0:41) it isn’t distorted at all. Phew. It’s just playing a nice clean D chord à la Pink Floyd’s “Brain Damage”. Oh-oh. From 1:51-1:56 the singer sings the line “When no one wants the songs from 1990 anymore”. And immediately after that he sings “Bitter wants to tell you as a friend”, but the way he sings the word “friend” (at 2:01) sounds like Eddie Vedder. Oh no. Drop-D tuning. 1990. Eddie Vedder. I don’t like where this is going. I think this song is going to The Land of Grunge.
2:07 – There it is. Lots of distorted guitars playing a drop-D chord. Grrr. I hope this is going to be an ironic commentary on Grunge using the clichés of the era.
Yep. The lyrics are definitely letting me know it’s all about the self-loathing that was a feature of La Grunge. (Sorry about that ZZ Top pun.) And the drums sound have that that typical Grunge drum sound (including a bass drum that sounds horrible, wet, Grunge-inspired sound. But I’m pleased to report that the tom toms are louder in this track.
I wasn’t going to mention the cussin’ at 4:26, but being a loather of cussin’ I feel compelled to let you know there’s a non-deleted expletive in this song. And to compound this unpleasantness, the singer is swearing about the Pixies: “When no one wants to hear the 😦 Pixies anymore”. I like the Pixies. (Here’s one reason why.)
Despite the swearing, and the Pixies-dissing*, I understand the point the band are making about musicians playing music that’s unfashionable. And I liked the song. (They made their point well.)
I need to spend less time on each track if I want to finish this post.
Wow. That’s the driest electric guitar sound I’ve heard in ages. I like the wordplay in the lyrics. (Sample lyric: “I’d wait less if I were weightless.”) If anyone ever asked me to advertise this song, I’d be more than happy to. I’d say in my best 1960s radio voiceover-man voice: “It’s littered with alliteration!” The wordplay wizzes by so fast that I’m left with the suspicion that I have no idea what this song is about. [Update: After three listens, I still have no idea what this song is about.] It’s entirely possible that this song exists just to cram in as many puns as possible. (Sample lyric 2: “…if gravity would quit grabbing me.”)
As a lover of puns (or, as they’re sometimes known ’round here: “dad jokes”), I enjoyed this song enormously. (“And we’ll have pun, pun, pun…“)
Now, if I could just figure out what it’s about…
8. “Over You“
Nice power pop guitars. I love it when they play their F sharp chord and leave the first two strings (i.e., the skinniest ones) open and ringing. (I’ve always loved an F sharp chord with open E and B strings. Mmm: jangly.)
From 2:03 until the end of the song, there’s a guitar solo. Unfortunately for me, that guitar is slightly out of tune. And I’m sad to report that from 2:26 onwards the guitar is even more out of tune, and it annoyed me. (Whenever I hear an out-of-tune instrument, my brain automatically cringes and says things like: “What? No! It’s out of tune! Arrgh! Please, someone, tune up your instrument! Please, for the love or mercy! Tune it up!!!”) But I liked the song anyway.
9. “Adam Intro“
Spoken-word stuff. It doesn’t last long (30 seconds).
When this started, its energy reminded me of The Wildhearts. I’d call this a pop punk song. I’d also call it enjoyable. But the lead guitar from 1:42-1:47 is out of tune. Gah! Plus there’s a wee bit of swearing at 2:06. But I still enjoyed the song.
This mid-tempo song is about a guy getting kicked out of the band. It wasn’t as poignant as I would have liked, but I enjoyed it, even though it left me with the following question: “Who or what is Venus?”
12. “Is That Another Amp?“
More spoken-word-ness. (15 seconds. It’s over in a flash.)
13. “Kinda Got It Goin’ On“
Boogie! This is the (presumably) kicked-out-of-the-band guy visiting his local drug outlets for some anaesthetisation.
13. “Someday I Might“
A nice, simply-strummed, low-key countryish song to end the album with. Nice. (Apart from the swear-word at 1:29.)
Incidentally, if you’re looking for a more balanced view of the album, Didn’t Planet’s website has a page linking to reviews that are much more helpful than mine.
(*I don’t especially like “diss”, as I feel it isn’t a real word – to me, the word is “disrespect” – but I couldn’t think of any other word to go there.)