Memo from the ISEPG
To: J. Andrew Magoffin (p.k.a. “The Two-Minute Miracles”) From: The International Society of Eccentric Pop Geniuses (ISEPG) Re: Your Recent Application (Volume II)
Thank you so much for your recent application to join ISEPG. We are always happy to hear from our Canadian friends; the society hasn’t admitted a lot of Canucks, but we’re always looking! Please encourage all your friends to send in applications.
Unfortunately, we are not able to admit you to ISEPG at this time. This denial is completely without prejudice; Volume II shows a lot of promise, and we feel certain that you will be able to join our ranks very soon. (Right now, we are processing an awful lot of applications from Elephant 6 spinoffs, and noise bands from Japan. Who knew?) We’d like to put forward our reasoning behind this denial, so that your next application can be “up to snuff”, as it were.
1. First of all, the length. Real eccentric pop geniuses release long self-indulgent albums, not concise self-indulgent EPs, of which this is your second in a row. (Although you did receive two points for the $7.00 price point.) Next time, think 70 minutes or more, to underscore your high confidence in your eccentric pop genius.
2. Secondly, we are concerned by the packaging here. It reveals a little too much about your approach. The pleasing shade of slate blue is nice, but the half-assed sketch of your “House of Miracles” (we understand it is your own house/studio) and the tiny tiny lettering about this being “An Album Incorporating the Experience of This Concern as Recording Musicians Since 1989” is not only pretentious but misleading, considering that the rest of your “band” is only present in its full form on four songs and in incomplete form on a few others. In fact, this is just an album incorporating you, Andy Magoffin: your songwriting, your singing, your guitar playing, your production work.
And the super-ironic sheet-music “urtext” transcription of four songs as your CD booklet, complete with fake-pretentious classical-music instructions, is itself pretty freaking pretentious, especially considering that at least two of these transcriptions are incomplete both musically and lyrically. Next time, skip this step and print your lyrics, or show messed-up pictures of the band, or maybe just doodle. Anything but this.
3. Now, to the music. To be honest, Mr. Magoffin, we don’t know what you’re thinking by leading the album with “Name That Song”. (We are, of course, disregarding the 20-second horn dealy called “Why We Seek the Heat of the Wave”. This is not a song.) Or, rather, by the structure of “Name That Song” itself. This begins with a six-note guitar lead-in, and then launches right into a stabby pseudo-melody and some of the worst first-verse lyrics in recent history: “Those eyes / Blue and nearly pie-sized / Shining like a searchlight / Magnets for your mind / Runnin’ round the jailyard / North and South aligned”. What are you going on about? You almost lost us right there, Andy; the Tragically Hip have been rejected from our society many times, and following their path is a fool’s game. And that ugly melody for two verses, followed by a pointless (yet pretty) guitar meander—well, some of us actually left the room, and Mr. Partridge threw something. (He’s cranky, with his prostate and everything.) Not auspicious, Magoffin.
4. But just as we were about to give up on you, you come through with that chorus, that chorus, that wonderful beautiful chorus! “Name that song / Who could that be? / Sounds all wrong / Sounds just like me”; sure, it doesn’t look like much on paper, but the soaring melody! the seven-part harmony! those cymbal splashes! Damn, Andy—now THAT’s the kind of thing that gets you into ISEPG!
5. The rest of Volume II follows the same general pattern: horrible ideas executed poorly alternated with stunningly fabulous, amazing pop moments. You have a great run after “Slow Down” The gentle “Slow Down (Porch Mix)”, with its heartbreaking melody and poignant lyrics (“You should slow / Slow down / You used up all your air / Bein’ everywhere / Tryin’ to prove your worth to the town / So catch your breath / And slow down”) and great banjo work from John Higney is a major plus, as is the folky “Meekly Mate”. You’ve got skills, Andy, and there’s no denying that.
6. But then you go and ruin the alt.country-with-fake-horns workout “Mother of the Airwaves” with bullshit lyrics like “Down with Love and Rockets / Down with Sook-Yin Lee”. We don’t care if you’re talking about Love and Rockets the comic book (good) or Love and Rockets the band (bad), dissing them and then one of Canada’s most beloved video hosts in a song is nothing but laziness. Why go to all the trouble? Eccentricity is not something you can concoct—it comes from the heart. The lack of heart in “Mother of the Airwaves”, as well as later tracks like “I Beat Your Heart” and “Low Man on the Lyric Pole”—apt title, eh?—is evidence that you are a big faker and unworthy of inclusion in our society.
7. But just as we’d kicked you out, you went and kicked our ass with “Like a Forest Ranger”. It’s a ridiculous song comparing a spurned lover to…well, not even a forest ranger really. We’re not sure. But that melody made several members swoon. And that guitar solo! It’s so overmiked, and so out-of-tune, and so lovely. You win us back again, and then you piss us off again. We’re getting whiplash.
8. So, overall, mixed results. This is both one of our favorite new CDs, and one of our most hated. If this is what you’re going for, then so be it. But maybe on your first FULL-LENGTH album you’ll slow down and stop trying to prove your worth to the town. That would help, as would an editor, so that you are no longer low man on the lyric pole. Please keep trying, because you could well be our first Canadian member in a long long time.