The shadow of high school hangs over Ultimate Fakebook’s This Will Be Laughing Week, not only in the goofy faux yearbook cover art and the band-as-wrestling-team photos, but in the songs’ themes and the band’s attitude. This Manhattan, Kansas rock trio deals with subjects straight from the brain of perennially heartbroken teenagers with rock-star dreams: crushes, getting a date for prom, forming your own heavy metal band, etc. A lot of the band’s high-schoolish tendencies come with a jokey wink, yet beneath that veneer there’s the serious desire to reach the feeling of fun and freedom that they associate with that time period. Their music is influenced by the spirit behind ‘80s “hair bands,” though not necessarily by their musical style (except in a few spots, like when they take the chorus of “She Don’t Even Know My Name” up a key at the song’s end, a trick right from the Bon Jovi fakebook). For Ultimate Fakebook, those bands represent a time when rock and roll was fun.
This Will Be Laughing Week is Ultimate Fakebook’s second album. It was originally released last year on Noisome Records, and has now been re-released by 550 Music, a division of Sony, with two bonus tracks taken from the band’s debut, Electric Kissing Parties. The sound is pure power pop, falling somewhere between Elvis Costello and Weezer. They’re on the trail to the perfect mix of melody and rocking that the Goo Goo Dolls were on before the glitzy costumes got in their way.
UFB excels when they’re playing energetic, catchy pop-rock songs with a sense of ease and confidence, like on “Tell Me What She Wants” and “Little Apple Girl.” These are great upbeat rockers made just for teenage boys to do that “jump-up-and-down” dance to. The album also includes a beautifully sweet lovesick piano ballad (“A Million Hearts”) an abstract little ditty somewhat reminiscent of Guided By Voices’ odder studio side (the title track), and a pair of more straightforward pop songs (“Of Course We Will” and “I’m All Out of It Now”) that are on the lighter side of rock but much better-written than anything that passes for pop on the radio these days.
Where the band missteps is when they go overboard with “we rock”-isms, like on the heavyhanded “Downstairs/Arena Rock.” On the ballad “Real Drums,” they’re overbearing in a much different way, as they reminisce about the times when the earth was ruled by real rock music, not this newfangled electronica stuff. Their slogan on this song is “real drums forever!,” an old-fashioned attitude quite unbecoming of twentysomethings playing high schoolers. They’re well-intentioned about it, I suppose, but in the context of a rock album it’s unnecessary whining; why talk about rocking when you can just do it? All in all, however, This Will Be Laughing Week has enough enjoyable rock anthems to keep the low points from staying in your head for long. It’s a solid power-pop album that should take these guys a little closer to their rock and roll dreams.
// Notes from the Road
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