[1 March 2012]
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
The dictionary definition for the title of this New York City band’s third album reads as such: “A figure of speech in which an imagined or absent person or thing is represented as speaking.” Does that sound weird and wacky? Well, Prosopopoeia is a weird and wacky album, full of bracing big pop hooks and a sense of the absurd – both in its use of squiggly keyboard lines and its playful lyrics. (“Bugs are crawling all over of your skin / But you don’t let it get to you” goes the opening line to “Womannequin”.) Inspired by ‘60s bubblegum pop with just a touch of psychedelica and ‘70s disco, the Color Bars come across as a sort of alternate world Fountains of Wayne or They Might Be Giants, just turning up the freaky aspects of those bands’ comedy into particularly out-there territory. And for the most part, the album works – though you might have to listen to the record repeated times to reach that conclusion. “Mendax Cries Fowl” (not a typo) is what you’d get if ELO joined forces with Sgt. Pepper’s-era Beatles. “Triple SSS” sounds remarkably like a robotized Bee Gees in all of its jump and glory. There’s even a folksy country song in “Where Did You Go?” that sounds a lot like Crosby, Stills and Nash. And then “Exquisite Corpse Suite”, which closes the album, is almost akin to the Beach Boys on crack. If that makes it sound as if this record is rather hyperactive, well, it is. That’s a little bit of a knock against it – the album is a little inconsistent in its broad reach, trying out all sorts of different sounds – but Prosopopoeia is meticulously produced and crafted. This is the perfect party album for those who like inviting their imaginary friends over for a few glasses of red wine and munchies. If that sounds rather prosopopoeia-ic, I guess that it is. I guess that it is.