Stop name-dropping Elvis Costello already
FLASH! Apparently quite a number of people in the rock press have likened The Montgomery Cliffs to Elvis Costello and the Attractions. Look, just because you adopt a nasally hiccup of a vocal style doesn’t mean shit. Costello and the Attractions have been and always will be in a class of their own, so don’t come running to me with the comparisons because I’ll only be disappointed. Besides, the Cliffs sound nothing like the great E.C. no matter how much they may want you to think so on “Wednesday Girl”, one of 12 new tracks on their new self titled album.
Of course, coming from Long Island may have something to do with the holes in the tapestry (kind of like how the Anderson Council would love you to believe that their phony British accents are 100% real), but to be fair The Montgomery Cliffs do have a pleasant little disc here, even if it does sound a bit confused at times. I say confused because the Cliffs are one of those bands that tries to employ a different sound of power pop over each track—remember when the Turtles did that way back when with their classic Battle of the Bands LP?—but only manages to lose their own sound within all the goofing about. Or do they even have their own sound? I’m still trying to figure that one out.
So yeah, “Wednesday Girl” is their homage to Costello, but it doesn’t stop there. Maybe you recall a few years back when Paul Westerberg came out with his debut solo album. That release contained a tune called “Mannequin Shop” that poked fun at all the people who worry about high fashion and run around getting face lips and nips and tucks here and there. It was pretty amusing, even if it really wasn’t Westerberg’s usual fare of cleverness. Here, The Montgomery Cliffs take the same idea and pump it into “Collagen Lips”. Great, guys. You’re hipper than the girls you never got and can stand back and admit to your own blemishes while everyone else gets their breasts done. The loser formula was old by 1994 and it sure isn’t fresh now.
Still, this album is full of moments where a song will come on and you think you’ve heard it before. It’s fun in that aspect the first time around, and then just becomes a bit weary by the third listen. Such songs as “Ride”, “Bad Karma”, and “Only” are filled with such moments. And hey, if you ever felt like you needed to hear the opening riff to Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” stuck in a power pop tune, then give “Joking” a listen. Seriously, these guys seem like they’re stuck somewhere around 1983 and never advanced. Too bad.
If a song entitled “B-Side” isn’t clever enough for you, then perhaps an ode known as “Gary Numan” will get the job done. This is high school cleverness spilling over into a bowl of Cheez Whiz. It’s capable, and the pop hooks are plentiful but in the end there is just no real substance here. I could resort to spewing a bunch of clichés about bubblegum that’s lost its flavor overnight on the headboard of your bed, but I’ll refrain. The plain truth is that The Montgomery Cliffs are pleasant, but that’s all. Perhaps if they took a few steps into the present day they’d succeed on a few more levels. The press release claims that “you’ll need a crowbar to pry it from your CD player—it’s that good”. I wish that was the case.