[13 October 2001]
When a band markets itself from the outset as “nerd rock” influenced by Weezer and Nerf Herder you pretty much know what you’re in for. Ames, Iowa’s Keepers of the Carpet don’t disappoint in that respect.
Opening with the punchy “Entitled”, Keepers of the Carpet sets the stage for an album full of angsty tracks that do their best to combine wry humor with a barrage of indie rock guitar riffs. The riffs come across as vintage Weezer while the lyrics, moving from bravado claims of fucking someone’s date and big pimping to a contradictory chorus of social anxiety, balance enough frustrated humor to qualify for the Nerf Herder comparison. Unfortunately, by the time the song ends in Jordan Mayland’s frustrated wails of “I wanna be left alone!” KotC’s power is pretty much spent. On the first track.
Actually, “Entitled” is more or less the exception to the rule on this debut album. While Keepers of the Carpet obviously have some respect for the pop leanings of their inspirations, they don’t have their heroes ability to balance irony on a knife point, and the result is just cheese. Songs like “G.I. Joe” seem to play gleefully in the playground of youthful memories, but on repeated listens they reveal themselves as little more than painfully juvenile.
A part of the problem here is Mayland’s gratingly teenaged, nasal voice. On “Holy Moly!” and “G.I. Joe” it almost seems appropriate, but far and away the worst offender on the disc is “I Love You”. Sung as a duet with the equally annoying Melissa Sorbo, it may be among the most banal indie rock love songs ever recorded. Not that love songs can’t be straightforward, but this schmaltzy track will leave you feeling more cynical than sunny.
The other main problem with Keepers of the Carpet is that only half of the songs seem to be musically realized. If Mayland’s voice is a detriment, he certainly has the ability to turn out some great vocal hooks. But the tracks that feature the most memorable hooks (“Holy Moly!”, “My Frustration”, “Rooftop”) are also the tracks that have the most cut-and-paste musical accompaniment. Likewise, songs like “3/4”, “Her Onion Garden”, and “Girl Next Door” deliver decent enough music but have weaker vocal and lyrical qualities. The only time they get it 100% right is on the final cut, “Falling Star”, when the band trades in the rock for a simple ballad that hits all the right notes by sing nothing more than an earnest and lovely (and not whiny) song.
Whatever the possibilities the band may have, bookended between “Entitled” and “Falling Star” are too many songs that are either too cheesy or too banal for this eponymous debut to get much praise. If you’re willing to skip from song to song looking for singular elements to appreciate, then Keepers of the Carpet will be enough for you. But if you’re looking for a solid, complete album, you’ll have to look elsewhere.