[3 May 2004]
Driver of the Year has apparently spent too much time traveling down I-95. The group’s debut album Some Girls Would Say…, like the interstate, bores me incredibly even when it’s chaotic or filled with junk. Neither the highway nor the band has any aesthetic appeal.
The four (or occasionally five) members of Driver of the Year sound like a bunch of ticked-off party boys who unfortunately squandered some of their beer money on instruments. To make up for their mistake, the rockers named two of their ditties “Stuck up Drunk” and “Cheap Ass Wine”. Hopefully, all you grammarians out there inserted the missing hyphens at the appropriate places in your head; otherwise, you could spend the afternoon pondering an appalling drink possibility.
The band could have at least done us the favor of using up all its bar money. Instead, Driver of the Year downgraded to something cheap and skunky and got all angsty and tried to write some songs to go along with their new instruments. Hence, the “Rock n’ Roll Revolution” [sic] is upon us. Oh, my. Musically, the revolution hasn’t really changed since the Beatles put a little blues shuffle into things, a guitar line that Seth Knappen has borrowed heavily from. Lyrically, Driver of the Year is a little confused—it’s not the listeners who “don’t know shit”. In fact, with luck, the listeners will have switched off the stereo before reaching this midpoint of banality.
“Stuck up Drunk” follows the revolution with its opening “Who’s going to drive you home tonight?” (a lyrical and melodic nod to the Cars’ “Drive”, of all things). Singer Jason Parris answers his own question: “Cause with a mouth like yours it sure as hell ain’t me”. I’d be willing to let that slide as it refers in part to an earlier conversation. In the next verse, however, the band fully embraces its adolescent worldview with “I don’t wanna sleep alone tonight / And with an ass like yours, I know this isn’t right”. The band slows down for this track, but it maintains the frat-basement atmosphere that’s been so carefully crafted. Driver of the Year mixes it up a bit, though, by trading in its usual empty lyrics for some poetry that would be offensive if only it wasn’t too idiotic to bother with. For an album titled Some Girls Would Say…, women have no place for a voice. The naked woman on the cover might even feel compelled to roll over.
By the end of the fifth of these seven tracks, you’ll probably have had enough. The band’s been lifting music without even an ironic acknowledgement (with the possible exception of the title of “Rock ‘n’ Roll Revolution”) and the lyrics have been unbearable. Finally, though, we’re rewarded for our wait with “Cheap Ass Wine”. If you’ve ever wondered what Poison demos sounded like, you’ll probably be fist-pumping and shouting out the top of your 1986 Firebird when you hear this one. Driver of the Year knows it, proclaiming, “The prize is right over here”. Actually, I don’t find it to be much of a prize; this track doesn’t even deserve the effort my snarking requires.
The only advantage to listening to all seven tracks is that it gives you a full amount of time to realize that Driver of the Year sounds most like Ted Leo and the Pharmacists without the technical skill, the vocal chops, the melodic sensibility, or the lyrical insight. Some Girls Would Say… rocks like aging hair-bands built upon junior high loner poetry.
I’m frustrated less with the band than with its label, Future Appletree Records. Future Appletree hasn’t been around very long, but its people have uncovered some very promising bands, including Tenki. The label’s worth keeping an eye on, but if it keeps releasing albums like Some Girls Would Say…, then it’s going to develop a reputation for wormy fruit.