If you’ve been keeping up with yours truly this year, then you know I absolutely frothed over Those Peabodys. So it was with much excitement that I received Super XX Man’s latest release Volume V a short time back. I was excited because Super XX Man (a.k.a. Scott Garred) is on the same label as Those Peabodys (Post-Parlo) and I was hoping for more of that musical excitement that I encountered with their album. Well, as the old saying sometimes goes: “fat chance”.
Scott Garred has that kind of voice that’s all soft and cuddly and just this close to breaking out into a weep that you just want to pick him up and tell him everything’s gonna be OK. I believe Garred could possibly be one of the reasons why singer/songwriters went out of style a while back. He’s so fey at times that you just want to beg him to stop singing about himself and his lost loves in his cute little voice. C’mon man, if you want me to feel your music here, you’re gonna have to do better than sounding like Rodney Anonymous from the Dead Milkmen, minus the attitude.
First of all, I’d like to say that I don’t like the drum sound on this disc at all. I don’t know if the drums are real or created from one of those old processors with the pads on them, but they sound horrible. They’re mixed so loudly that, more often than not, they threaten to drown out the vocals. Plus they just sound really thin and cheap (hence the question of their organic nature). Secondly, Garred has an infuriating habit of repeating the same lines in a few songs here, over and over. Look, it doesn’t get any better after you’ve said it the fifth time. This crime is committed straight out of the gate with the opening track “Generosity”. “If you know where you’re going you can get there through me / If you know where you’re going you can get there through me / If you know where you’re going you can get there through me / Generosity” warbles Garred. And then he does it again.
From there, it’s the repeated “You dream fast and I’ll dream slow / Where we’ll stop no one will know”, complete with incredibly bad electric guitar squalls, on “You Dream Fast”; “What do you want now?” in “Playing Our Song”; and the amazingly irritating “It’s a lonely old night, I need you / It’s a lonely old night, I need you / It’s a lonely old night, I need you / Ooh ooh-ooh ooh-ooh” in “Lonely Old Night”. And they just keep repeating. It’s kind of like Paul McCartney’s already banal lyrics from “My Love” stripped down even more and dipped into sweet goo. Frankly, it hurts.
When Garred does get around to singing some actual lyrics, they’re not much better. On “All Night Diners” we are treated to “Why do people cry in all night diners? / Why do they say goodbye so soon?” and “Why do people die at all night funerals? / Why do they send flowers to the moon?” Why does Scott Garred write such goofy stuff? is a better question. He says Volume V was born “out of optimism, love and lots of it”. It seems to me it was created out of belly-button gazing, too much sugar, and Romper Room. When I’m faced with such candle-gazing lines as “Do you believe all the lies inside your answer? / I believe I know the truth is buried inside” (from “House, Haunted”), I know I’m ready to pull poor Scotty out of whatever awful writers’ workshop he was thrown into.
“I miss you so sincerely / And I miss you so completely / And I miss you so ridiculously / Why do you let me miss you?” asks “Miss You So Sincerely” while “Garage Apartment” moans “I need another chance / I want another chance / I need another chance / I need another chance to be with you” ad nauseam, as Garred’s voice all chokes up. OK, I think I can stop citing all the things that really bug me about this album. Hopefully, you catch my drift after all these examples. Simply put, Volume V is precocious and fragile and if you dropped the CD it’s contained on, all the songs might just shatter (which might not be a bad thing).
I have no idea how the preceding volumes of Super XX Man’s work have sounded, and honestly I don’t want to find out. Garred points out that his recording mentor Dave McNair refers to the songs here as Scott’s “classic rock”. Well it’s not close to classic and as far as rocking goes, Scott could stand to get a little angry now and then instead of curling up into a fuzzy little ball. I mean, it certainly couldn’t hurt anything. Could it?