On the opening track “Please Speak Well of Me” of the Weepies fourth studio album Be My Thrill there is the most annoying triangle sound that emulates the ring of a 60s rotary phone. It makes me think my cell phone is ringing and it’s thoroughly distracting and rather aggravating. I’m continuously raising my ear to listen for my phone, placing the album on hold to ensure that the sound is in fact coming from my headphones. Luckily, the Weepies are one of the most charming and non-confrontational married folk duos to emerge out of this decade—almost like a modern day The Sundays, but not as edgy, if you can refer to The Sundays as edgy—so this fleeting annoyance is easily forgivable.
The Weepies caught my attention when I heard their infectious happy-blues track “World Spins Madly On” from 2006s Say I Am You, on Grey’s Anatomy. (I know, I know, whatever, this review is not about that). Much hasn’t changed since then, and the Weepies continue to spin madly on. Every track is infectiously sweet and catchy, and the lyrical content never strives for greater depth then lines like: “Well I know that life is hard/You make it all right/And I know how dark you get/Late in the night” on “Add my Effort”. They even sing about how completely happy and sunny they are on “I Was Made For Sunny Days”, where a doe-eyed Deb Talan sings: “I was made for sunny days/I made do with grey/But I didn’t stay/I was made for sunny days/And I was made for you”. The lyrics mimic the worst Hayley Sales or Darrelle London tunes. As sweet and vomit-inducing as these lyrics are, handled improperly could be a disaster. Thankfully, the Weepies are quite adept musicians and songwriters, never letting the unintentional and laughable sincerity in their horrendous lyrics overshadow their delivery. There vocal performance is coy and playful, at times nauseating, but always charming. This is happy done well.
What is most impressive about Be My Thrill is how musically diverse it is. No song lingers for longer than three and a half minutes, nor would you want it too. The album (at a substantial 12 tracks) comes and goes in a swift 33½ minutes. Thankfully, each is distinct from the previous regardless of how similar the songwriting structure is. The simplicity of their verse-chorus-verse-chorus format, coupled with identical BPMs for each tune would drive a tone of monotony in the hands of lesser artists, but for the Weepies, it works. It actually characterizes their sound, and hones their abilities into a singular focus. They occasionally trade off lead vocal duties as well, with Deb dominating more so than Steve, but neither member detracts from their overall appeal. They complement each other nicely.
The Weepies do not complicate their successful format for greater degrees of reverence—which is a good thing. Their music is simple, and is meant to be taken almost completely at face value. Although their music is happy done well, it’s also unmemorable happy. Their uncomplicated approach to music making, could certainly be their undoing. Who remembers the simple albums meant for easy digesting? How often do you sing the praises of the Wild Strawberries or Sixpence None the Richer? Most uncomplicated music inevitably fades from its initial precarious starting position into the realms of music abyss, lost in the shuffle of the $2 bin at used CD stores; and with used CD stores quickly and steadily disappearing, the potential future revival of The Weepies looks to be even more grim. Once you delete those iTunes Mp3s from your computer, they’re gone forever—you can’t buy cheap used Mp3s anywhere, trust me.
There are, of course, a few missteps and bad songs on the album. The track “Red Red Rose” sung by husband Steven Tannen is one of the most insufferable tunes with his preposterous insistence to sing words three times each: “Don’t know why you do the things you do do do/Holding it together with some glue glue glue/You’re favourite color isn’t red it’s blue blue blue/No one knows a red red rose”. It’s almost as if they are trying to compensate for their inexorable unmemorable-ness by simply repeating words in hopes they catch on. It kind of works, but not in the way they are hoping. “Be My Honeypie” is another that will leave your ears bleeding: “Be my honeypie/Never say goodbye/If you don’t love me I will die/Be my honeypie”. It’s ingratiating.
Be My Thrill is a solid effort from married duo the Weepies, but without any of the pizzazz of more interesting duo’s like She & Him or The Sundays, to keep them on your radar for longer than a few years. Their nonchalant musical approach suits their infectiously happy/sunny vibe, and even if you want to stab yourself in the stomach from ingesting too much of it, you have to admit that they are always sweetly charming.
// Notes from the Road
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