The concept is fascinating: one man (Dave Einmo) taking hoards of Super 8 movies that his parents shot when he was younger, and lifting audio samples from them and using said clips as the jump-off point for an indie-pop tidal wave of coolness.
Unfortunately, gimmicks like this only work when the band actually commits to the gimmick. The times these Super 8 audio samples are apparently used, are as simple sentences on the opening lines of some songs (“Tell Mommy You Want a Sip of Beer”) or during any of the three interludes. The album also features contributions from members of groups as diverse as Crooked Fingers, Preston School of Industry, Kinski, and the Posies, but there’s no way you’d be able to figure that out by listening to the album by yourself. Random Portraits of the Home Movie is a mixture of paint-by-numbers indie-pop ditties and atmospheric soundscapes, the former (fortunately) outnumbering the latter. Though a cathartic nature is certainly intended for moody reflection pieces like “Scenes from the World Trade Center 1979”, the concept has been done before, and by better musicians, countless times over.
Random Portraits of the Home Movie
US: 21 Feb 2006
UK: Available as import
Perhaps what’s most frustrating about Head Like a Kite is simply that when Einmo drops the gimmicks and rocks out, he actually sounds pretty good. “A Dime and a Cigarette” is perhaps the rocker the jumps out the most, following indie-rock clichés to the “T”, but still a burst of six-string energy, even including the classic shout-rock chorus structure. Of all the instrumentals, the xenorific “Blue Merlot in Tokyo” sounds like a damn fine Kid Koala slow-jam that somehow ended up on the studio floor (and makes the white-boy synth-funk of “Interested in Worms?” all that more forgivable). This all leaves room for the hand-me-down best moment on the whole CD: the deliciously titled “Injecting 10ccs of Temptation”. With an infectious beat and snagging stop-start guitar blares, it proves to be a genuinely catchy moment in an album of too damn few of them.
Einmo’s lyrics are forgettable (listen to the fem duet “Noisy at the Circus” to find this out for yourself) but it doesn’t matter — you can’t hear them through the megaphone-like distortion half the time. All of this adds up to a disappointing album built around a fascinating concept that never really gets used to its fullest. Einmo obviously has musical talent and an ear for melody, but he just needs some solid focus. Remove the gimmicks, and this Movie is worth watching.