Department of Our Ways begins with the feedback-laden, distortion-riddled, barely listenable intro track, “Fake Brain Explained,” in which, you might imagine, the mystery behind the group (though this is their second release. . .) is revealed. And so it goes: “We slithered out of our incubators / Translucent membranes / Covering our faces / Now we are here / And we’re coming into your ear.” Thanks for the warning. In fact, they are coming into your ear, with an often loud, cynical, naïve, and irrepressible alterna-punk hybrid sound, that, at times, isn’t all that bad.
Yet, Department of Our Ways is no Dookie (Green Day). Let’s not jump to conclusions. At their best, the lyrics here are either juvenile and inane (“Oh baby please don’t call the cops / I wan’t to adjust your knobs” and “A cup of coffee / A piece of toast outside my window i see your ghost / I thought you were a bathroom / You thought I was a metronome”), or mildly, accidentally introspective (“I’m not easily led / Merely open to bad suggestions / You can end up with the wrong answers / Even asking the right questions”).
But the focus here, as with many artists making music like this, isn’t so much in words as it is in melody and rhythm. On Weezer-meets-They Might Be Giants tracks like “. . .Did You Calculate” and “Touching,” Fake Brain exhibits a worthy sense of both, trading in bankable quotes for a catchy verse-chorus-verse ideal. It makes the most sense this way, since the arrangements don’t warrant Dylan-esque poetry as much as adolescent warbling.
In this way alone, Department of Our Ways, if given the proper outlet and exposure, would likely find its way into many a high school CD collection, next to Everclear or Blink 182, no more, no less.
Regardless of whether or not they crawled out of an incubator, who can fault them for that?